Tigers must round out pitching staff
Pitching is a big part of baseball. It is one of the three simplistic phases of our national pastime. One throws the ball, one hits the ball and one catches the ball.
The Northwestern baseball team, led by head coach Len Smith, is confident it can do the last two, there is just some questions about throwing it, from the mound.
"We lost two pitchers [to graduation] in Richard Perry and Alex Smith, who were second and third in innings pitched last season," Smith, who is embarking on his 32nd season commanding the Tigers baseball club, said. "We only have junior Brandon Eden returning, who did exceptionally well last year. He is sort of a proven talent. The rest of the pitchers we have on staff saw minimal time on the mound last year. They are going to have to prove themselves on the mound because we are going to need some help."
Smith is looking for junior Josh Williamson to emerge as his number two hurler this season with the hopes that fellow junior Jordan Storm and sophomore Brandon Miller can also become viable figures on the mound.
Catcher Collin Breidinger is back for his senior season and Smith is looking at him to assume a leadership role both on and off the field. Breidinger was one of the team's top hitters with a .371 batting average in 2013.
"We expect a lot of leadership from Collin," Smith said. "Especially since he and [outfielder] Austin Yanek are the only seniors on the team. Collin is also our catcher with everything out in front of him on the field. We expect him to take a big leadership role on this team."
Other returners and potential leaders, are junior outfielder Taylor Breininger, who hit .350 last season, junior outfielder Nick Rodriguez, junior short stop Jake Augustus and sophomore second baseman Brady Mengel.
Smith has a good nucleus returning from last year, but this year's success will depend on how some of the newcomers develop as the season progresses. They are junior Patrick Brannan (outfielder) and freshmen Isaac Fatzinger (infielder/outfielder) and Tyler Schreiner (first baseman).
The Tigers are coming off a 13-8 years in 2013 where they qualified for the District 11 CLass AAA playoffs and they want to do it again this spring.
"One of our main goals, year in and year out, is to qualify for the playoffs," he said. "Whether that be league playoffs or district playoffs. We want to be playing meaningful games when it is late in May. That has always been our goal. I think we have the ability to do it as we are both offensively and defensively sound."
Northwestern has the offensive firepower returning with a lot of experience coming back in the field as well. The question mark lies on the mound in New Tripoli and how the pitching staff pans out. That may decide whether the Tigers are lying on the inside or the outside when it comes time for the playoffs.