Southeast Missouri State baseball team looks to answer questions with new faces
Monday, February 13, 2012
Mark Hogan has had success fielding teams filled with experience as well as reloading squads filled with plenty of question marks.
Hogan's 2012 club fits into the second category, but Southeast Missouri State's all-time winningest baseball coach likes the talent he has assembled entering his 18th season at his alma mater.
"I like the pieces we have. It's just a matter of how the puzzle fits together," said Hogan, whose squad lost 18 seniors from last year and returns just four starters. "It's a fun club to work with because there are so many new guys. Everybody has been working hard, and I'm excited to get going.
"I like our athleticism. My question is how all the new guys are going to respond to this level of play. Last year we were the veteran club in the league. This year we're probably the youngest."
The Redhawks, coming off a 34-22 season and a second-place Ohio Valley Conference finish of 14-8, open Friday at 2011 NCAA Super Regional qualifier Dallas Baptist.
Southeast tied for the third-most wins in program history last year and extended its conference record for consecutive OVC tournament appearances to 17, or every season that Hogan has coached the Redhawks.
"We had a really good season last year," said Hogan, who has led Southeast to at least 30 victories nine times and has a 503-420-1 record, including NCAA regional berths in 1998 and 2002. "We had so much experience. We lost a lot of firepower, but we do return some quality players and there's a lot of opportunity for new players, including some guys we redshirted last year. I feel like we did well with our recruiting."
Southeast's pitching staff was hit especially hard by graduation. Ten of the Redhawks' 13 hurlers in 2011 were seniors. That includes all three conference starters and their top reliever.
"We feel like we've got some good arms," said Hogan, whose squad has just six seniors on the 34-man roster. "I'm concerned about our experience on the mound. We're basically starting over with a new pitching staff."
The Redhawks, returning 10 players along with three freshmen who redshirted, welcome back several key position players.
Leading the way is All-American senior third baseman Trenton Moses from Advance High School.
Moses, the OVC player of the year, batted .395 with 11 home runs, 14 doubles, a triple, 53 RBIs, 44 runs scored, a .672 slugging percentage and .502 on-base percentage last year.
Moses, a starter since his freshman season, ranked second in the OVC in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He was fourth in home runs per game and RBIs per game. He was 14th nationally in on-base percentage.
"Trenton had a tremendous season and he's had a great career for us," Hogan said.
The Redhawks lost their five top hitters for average behind Moses but did not graduate all of their weapons from an offense that ranked 10th nationally in batting (.316) and eighth in home runs (1.02 per game).
Senior shortstop Kenton Parmley, entering his fourth season as a starter, hit .308 with 17 doubles, five homers and 30 RBIs.
Senior Taylor Heon (.306), who split time at second base a year ago, will assume that position full time.
Senior Jesse Tierney (.277) takes over at catcher after splitting time behind the plate last year, primarily playing against right-handers.
Senior Kody Campbell (.256 in 43 at-bats) moves in at first base. The Oran, Mo., native rarely played over the last half of 2011 but had a strong sophomore campaign, batting .295 and leading the Redhawks with a .480 on-base percentage.
"We're very fortunate to have a very good infield back. That should be our strength," Hogan said. "We're set there. That's a good place to start."
Southeast lost its top four outfielders. The most experienced outfielder is sophomore Cole Bieser, who received just 24 at-bats and primarily was used as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement.
The only other returning position player who saw action is sophomore infielder Derek Gibson, who had only one at-bat.
Hogan said Bieser will start the season in center, with redshirt freshmen Jason Blum and Dalton Hewitt taking over in left field and right field, respectively.
Bieser and Blum are both graduates of Valle Catholic High School in Ste. Genevieve, Mo.
Andy Lennington, Southeast's final freshman who redshirted last year, also is in the mix for playing time either in the outfield, the infield or at DH.
"One of the good things last year, we were able to redshirt some outstanding players. They'll start to make their mark," Hogan said.
Inexperience on the mound
Current pitchers accounted for just two of Southeast's 34 wins last season.
Junior Shae Simmons from Scott City did not have nearly the type of season as in 2010 when he won the OVC freshman of the year award but still recorded five saves.
Senior Ryan Prickett and sophomore Christian Hull, who both notched a victory, primarily were situational left-handers.
The remainder of the roster is filled with 21 newcomers that consists of 10 junior college transfers and 11 freshmen.
Eight of the 10 juco transfers are pitchers: Bobby Hurst, Ryan Kendall, Trevor Kill, Dylan Lynn, Michael Patman, Zach Smith, Hank Williams Jr. and Tony Zerrusen. Kendall and Smith are left-handers.
Patman can also play the infield, while the other juco transfers are infielder John Logan Zink and catcher Shane Blair.
The freshmen include outfielder/pitcher Bob Clark from Jackson and infielder/pitcher Andy Lack from Kennett.
Hogan said Clark, a walk-on, will redshirt and there is a chance Lack will redshirt as well, along with some of the other freshmen.
"We like them both," Hogan said.
Other freshmen are catcher/first baseman Ryan Barnes, catcher Alex Burridge, pitcher Grant Davis, infielder/outfielder Nolan Fisher, catcher/infielder Skylar Ladd, outfielder/pitcher Cody Spanberger, left-handed pitcher Will Spitzfaden, outfielder Malik Steward and outfielder/first baseman Steven Still.
Hogan said Barnes is a strong candidate to begin the season as Southeast's DH, while Blair, Patman, Zink, Spanberger and Still are among those in the mix for early playing time.
Hogan said Hull will start Friday's opener against Dallas Baptist, with Simmons and Smith, the juco lefty, starting Saturday's doubleheader.
Only Simmons, who has started a handful of games the past two years, has any starting experience at the Division I level. But Hogan likes what he's seen from the trio.
"All three have been throwing well," Hogan said.
Hogan said Spanberger has been impressive on the mound and is a strong candidate for some early starts. The same goes for Kendall, the other juco lefty.
Prickett, Hurst, Lynn, Patman, Williams Jr. and Zerrusen also likely will see early action on the mound.
"I"m sure we'll experiment with some different lineups early in the season and we'll get a lot of guys on the mound," Hogan said. "It's going to be interesting to see how it all comes together."