From SGU Sports Information
The St. Gregory’s University baseball team will try to carry the positive momentum created last season into its 2013 campaign. After setting school records for conference wins and earning the school’s first postseason victory in 2012, expectations are rising around Bill Nicklas Field.
SGU coach Chris Pingry – the reigning Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year – said his team learned much from 2012’s success.
“I am extremely proud of what we accomplished last year; it was a great season for our program,” said Pingry, who begins his 11th season as head coach. “The momentum we built has been visible through the confidence this team has shown in the fall.”
The Cavs return four starters from last year’s team. Pingry said his squad’s overall athleticism will be beneficial this spring.
“Our speed translates well to our defensive range and provides an exciting and aggressive approach to our offense,” he said. “We should provide an exciting brand of baseball in 2013.”
Chris King returns for his fourth season as assistant coach. King’s primary responsibilities include handling the pitching staff, recruiting, and oversight of maintenance to Bill Nicklas Field. Daniel Duarte, who was part of last year’s record-breaking campaign as a player, will remain with the Cavs as a student assistant.
Fans will notice some changes around Bill Nicklas Field this season. Facility improvements include upgrades to the dugout railings and bleachers. An indoor batting cage also has been installed in the intramural gym.
SGU opens the season Tuesday at Bacone College. The Cavs play their home opener Friday against East Central University at 1 p.m.
Junior Ben Moore will begin the season as the staff ace. Moore primarily came out the bullpen last season, posting a 5.50 ERA in 15 appearances. Pingry said the remainder of the rotation is up for grabs. Junior Joey Moreno, junior Jacob Ratliff, juniorJulian Estrada, junior Mike Pople, senior Cody Kollmann and freshman Chris Sutton all are competing for the final slots.
“Moreno brings a wealth of experience as a rotation starter a year ago at Hartnell College and has as much ability as any pitcher on the staff,” Pingry said. “Estrada has a strong ability to control a game, while Ratliff brings a strong competitive presence to the mound. Both Pople and Kollmann go right after hitters and have the ability to develop into solid rotation arms or critical shutdown arms in the bullpen. Sutton provides a reliable arm that can throw every day.”
“Savereide has the ability to get out of tough situations,” Pingry said. “Guenthart has a lot of ability, competes well on the mound and will provide valuable innings late in games.”
The catcher position will be one of the team’s biggest strengths. SGU enters the season with three players who could see significant time behind the dish. Junior Mark Milioto, a transfer from De Anza College, enters the season as the starter. Milioto projects to hit anywhere from third to seventh in the lineup. Junior Matt Blackwell will be Milioto’s primary backup with Chris Sutton splitting time between pitching and catching.
“Milioto is a strong defensive catcher that does an excellent job of controlling the game and providing leadership on the diamond,” Pingry said. “Blackwell is another strong defensive catcher and is one of the vocal leaders of our team. Sutton has an accurate arm and is a solid line drive hitter with good speed on the bases.”
“Murphy is a strong defensive first baseman and provides a quality bat from the right side,” Pingry said. “Egler is a solid defensive first baseman with a strong offensive bat from the left side.”
“Taylor provides solid defensive range, a quality contact bat and strong speed on the bases,” Pingry said. “Blackwell gives us a defensive glove, a strong arm and a solid offensive approach at the plate. Bradley provides is a reliable defensive player and has good speed on the bases.”
As many as three players could see action at third base during the season. ReturnerRoberto Celestino enters the season as the starter. Celestino was fourth on the team last season with a .274 batting average.
“Celestino provides a solid left-handed bat to the middle of the line-up and a reliable glove defensively,” Pingry said. Brian Bartlett provides a solid gap-to-gap right-handed bat with the ability to play any position on the infield. Both Celestino and Bartlett provide a strong pinch-hit option when not in the line-up.”
“Guenthart had a strong fall defensively and provides the speed needed to hit anywhere at the top or bottom of the line-up,” Pingry said. “Blackwell has shown a lot of potential at the position with solid defensive range and a strong arm.”
Returning starters Christian Torres and Jordan Funtila are expected to start in left field and center field, respectively. Torres ranked 14th in the SAC last season in fielding percentage. Funtila, who is expected to lead off for the Cavs, was second on the team with a .325 batting average last season.
“Torres provides solid gap-to-gap power and will hit anywhere from second to fifth in the lineup,” Pingry said. “Funtila has excellent top end speed.”
“Both Blackwell and Ratliff bring a solid glove and strong arm to the position,” Pingry said. “Moreno provides a solid glove and gap-to-gap contact at the plate. Mora has improved as much as any player in the program and will contribute in a pinch-hitting role from the left side. Stryker will provide a valuable role as a pinch runner with solid speed.”
There are an abundance of options for Pingry at the designated hitter spot. Two of the top options will be Ben Moore and Cody Kollmann. Both saw limited action last season with a combined 15 plate appearances.
“Moore provides strong gap-to-gap power from the left side and is expected to hit in the middle of the lineup,” Pingry said. “Kollmann is a solid gap-to-gap line drive hitter from the right side with middle of the line-up power.”
Brad Collins is the Sports Information Director at St. Gregory’s University.
Photo courtesy SGU Sports Information Department.