UB baseball positional breakdown
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 22:02
Last season’s baseball team graduated three productive players – including Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Jason Kanzler. But the 2014 has no lack of depth. Here is who will play where for the baseball team this season.
The 2013 baseball team’s pitching led to its turnaround. After mediocre pitching statistics plagued the program since its reinstatement in 2000, last year’s pitching staff put up record numbers.
Before 2013, the team’s lowest ERA was 5.75, but last season it posted a 3.72. Last season, the Bulls allowed 16 home runs, struck out 306 batters and held opponents to a .265 batting average.
Most of the staff that led last season’s renaissance is returning this season, notably junior Anthony Magovney, junior Mike McGee and senior Mike Burke – last year’s top three starters. Also returning is team-ERA leader sophomore Ben Hartz – who was named to the Louisville All-American team – and senior Dan Ginader.
“There are not too many individual goals on this team except to win a MAC championship,” McGee said.
The Bulls will also get a boost from the return of senior Kevin Hughes, who is now almost two years removed from Tommy John surgery, an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction procedure.
Head coach Ron Torgalski is happy with the depth of his pitching staff and thinks the competitiveness among one another has led directly to their success last season. He also thinks a player like Hughes – who has shown the ability to start and push the starters – will be a big help.
“We have a target on our back right now,” Hartz said. “I feel like we are the team to beat.”
If the pitching staff can build on last season’s success in 2014, the Bulls will once again make a run at a Mid-American Conference title.
Replacing Jason Kanzler, 2013’s Mid-American Conference Player of the Year and the Bulls’ batting-average, home-run and stolen-base leader will be no easy task. But the Bulls return seniors Jimmy Topps – who was second on the team in hitting with a .314 average – and Thomas Richards – who tied for second on the team with five home runs last season.
Topps found a starting role in 2012 was thrust upon him when senior Matt Pollock broke his wrist the first weekend of the season and missed the remainder of the year’s games. This year, Topps knows he will be starting from the beginning of the season.
“A lot of the stress is off you because you know the guys, you are best friends with them,” Topps said. “Coming in as a junior from Chicago was tough – you didn’t know anyone.”
Pollock returns this season after a spring and summer spent recovering and a fall of training. Pollock was the only Bull picked for a preseason All-MAC team last year and will likely find himself in the middle of the Bulls’ order this season.
Although it will be tough to replace Kanzler’s offensive production, the return of Pollock and a bigger role from both Topps and Richards will certainly help ease the transition.
In 2013, the baseball team’s infield was a huge part of its success. The Bulls posted a fielding percentage of .965, and every position contributed offensively. But in 2014, the infield will have a markedly different look. First baseman Alex Baldock and second baseman Jon Mestas have graduated, and head coach Ron Torgalski has moved senior Mike Burke to third base and sophomore Tyler Mautner to first.
The entire infield is playing positions they were rarely asked to play in 2013, but the team isn’t using that as an excuse.
“We have a solid core of guys returning this year who all want to win,” Scarcello said. “If you don’t have the mindset to win and you’re not confident, you might as well not even play the game.”
Scarcello will be the starting shortstop once he returns from injury. He hurt his finger during the winter and likely won’t be ready for opening day against Davidson, but Torgalski hopes he won’t miss longer than two weeks of the season.
Mautner, who set the school record for doubles in a season with 23 in 2013, will move from third to first base.
“Last year was a learning tool for my first full year playing,” Mautner said. “Our goal is to make it to regionals.”
Instead of shuffling the infield every Sunday when Burke pitches this season, Torgalski has decided to move Burke to third and move Mautner back to third when Burke is on the mound.