Pitching, Depth Key Pioneers’ Success

by Abby Ferguson

As the spring sports season is heating up, the Transylvania baseball team is looking for its consecutive winning season. The Pioneers brought back a lot of guys from their 2010 squad, and with that comes experience and a desire to win.

Senior Evan Rhea led the Pioneers in hitting last season with a .434 average.

“We have an excellent balance of experience and youth,” said head coach Chris Campbell. “Our older guys have seen us go to an NCAA regional, and our young guys are eager to take us back to that level. Most of our older guys are focused and show a good amount of leadership, and we will rely on a variety of guys to produce from every class.”

The seniors are hoping to repeat the success they had their first year here at Transy.

“We know how sweet it was to make it that far and we would love to be there again with this year’s team,” said senior infielder Evan Rhea.

The men want to win two games of three or sweep each series they play. As a team, they made goals of winning the conference tournament and hope to have the chance of competing in the NCAA tournament.

“We believe that if we focus on each individual game, particularly in conference,” said senior outfielder Ben Kuebbing, “we have a very good chance of winning the conference and eventually going to regionals. … Once you get there, anything can happen.”

The men realize most of their competition will be in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

“Our conference is always very tough. I can’t really pick out one opponent that will be the most difficult. … In our conference we play tough opponents each and every week,” said Kuebbing.

“We have two big away series against Anderson (University in Indiana) and Franklin (College),” said Rhea. “Both these teams were ranked ahead of us (in the) preseason (poll of conference coaches). Manchester (College), who we play at home, will also be a tough opponent.”

The senior position players will have an important role this year. But with two top pitchers graduating last year, the first-years will need to step up.

“We will obviously rely heavily on our senior position players, but a year after graduating two pitchers who are No. 1 and 2 on our all-time win list (Korey Colyer and Mitch Florence), the biggest impact will need to come from our freshman pitchers,” said Campbell.

The first-years have already proven they are capable of filling in the gaps. Campbell feels “comfortable with what they will give us.”

One thing the 2011 squad has going for it is how deep the roster is this season.

“We are at least two deep at every position on the field, which means that every day, a capable (and sometimes outstanding) player will start the day on the bench,” Campbell said. “That is certainly a strength at this time of year, and will be the whole season as long as our guys are committed to being a good team, rather than focused on individual performance.”

With this kind of depth, the players will have to fight for playing time.

“Coach Campbell has been talking a lot about how our depth will be a great advantage for us moving forward,” said Kuebbing. “We really do have competition at each spot on the field.”

Along with their depth in the field, the Pioneers have two seniors and four first-year catchers, which is more catching than the team has ever had.

As for pitching, the starting rotation will be in “flux” until the Pioneers start competing in conference games.

“(The pitching staff has depth) in terms of guys that we feel will contribute, though we don’t have as many pitchers on the roster as we have in years past,” said Campbell.

The team will also be looking to its rookies to step up and pitch well this season. The first-year pitchers have shown poise on the mound. Campbell is also “encouraged with the leadership our juniors exhibit.”

“The pitching staff is the key to our season in my mind,” Campbell said.

This season, Campbell is stressing the importance of working as a team and knows that if the squad accomplishes this concept, “the sky is the limit for this club.”

The Pioneers also know the value of working hard, of “playing aggressively and mak(ing) that a part of who we are,” according to Campbell.

“If we can do that, we will win a lot of games, … and that’s pretty much the bottom line,” said Campbell.

“I feel like this 2011 team has more focus than any team I’ve had before, and they are also an extremely enjoyable group to coach and to be around,” Campbell said. “There is definitely a good feeling throughout the club right now.”


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