Looking ahead to the 2012 baseball schedule, Blinn College head coach Harvey McIntyre knew his talented sophomore class would need a little help to survive in the new-look Region XIV South Zone.
With the addition of a seventh team – Angelina College – and a new schedule that made each three-game conference series a two-day affair, McIntyre knew that team depth would be at a premium heading into his fifth season as the Buccaneers’ head coach.
With the freshman class McIntyre brought to Brenham this season, the Buccaneers are looking to build upon a 2011 campaign that saw the club win 39 games and advance to the Region XIV Tournament quarterfinals.
“There are some freshmen who are ready to go play for us today,” McIntyre said. “There are quite a few of them that I think are ready to contribute for us in the infield and on the mound.”
The freshmen will need to make an impact with conference games now scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays. In the past, the first game would be played Wednesday, giving the players two days off before Saturday’s double-header.
“Playing back to back days, we’re going to play 25 innings in less than 24 hours,” McIntyre said. “Your mental focus and mental maturity and physical toughness is going to win the series for you. I believe the most resilient team will win conference this year. ”
On the recruiting trail, McIntyre placed a premium on adding athleticism to the roster, players who brought not only speed and power to the diamond, but athletes who could play multiple positions and fill multiple roles for the Bucs.
Those freshmen will supplement a sophomore class that includes three all-conference honorees and helped the Buccaneers put together one of the best seasons in program history.
“We as a coaching staff are going to ask our kids to play with an attitude, with effort and with execution,” McIntyre said. “They have bought into the fact that if they do these three things, they will earn their success. They understand that you don’t earn an eminent amount of success by just doing what is asked of you, it takes a bit more. I feel that this group has the talent that will turn into the ability to be legitimate contenders to be playing in Colorado.”
The Buccaneers have gone to the Junior College World Series six times in program history, including consecutive appearances from 1962-65. The team also qualified in 1968 and 1992. Blinn finished third in the nation in 1992.
Here’s how the Buccaneers expect to look around the diamond this season:
After pitching was a strength for the 2011 team, it looks to be an anchor for the Buccaneers once again in 2012, led by the return of two all-conference pitchers in Jason Simms (Liberty Christian) and Trevor Seidenberger (Hendrickson).
Simms is coming off a season in which he went 8-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 84 innings. He struck out 73 and walked 21.
“He’s a bona fide No. 1, he creates bad swings” McIntyre said. “He’s a guy that nobody wants to face.”
Seidenberger is also coming off a big freshman season in which he went 6-4 with a 3.01 ERA through 68 2/3 innings. He struck out 68 batters and walked 24.
“He was 6-4 but he probably threw well enough to be 8-2,” McIntyre said. “If he’s dialed in and ready, he’s tough to beat, Trevor is a power left handed arm with plus stuff”
Kevin Hahn (Houston Stratford), a 6-1, 195-pound left-hander, gives the Bucs another experienced starter who played a key role in last season’s success. Hahn went 4-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 45 1/3 innings last season, walking just nine batters over that span.
“He threw outstanding for us last year and he really made a jump this fall,” McIntyre said. “Kevin attacks the strike zone with a three pitch mix and has a great deal of pitching sense. That guy’s going to win games for you.”
Sophomore right-hander David Rumsey (Tomball) established himself as a late-inning reliever last season, going 3-1 with a 1.01 ERA last season over 17 2/3 innings, and he has an opportunity to be the Buccaneers’ closer this season.
Sophomore right-hander Christian DeLeon (Richmond Foster), a transfer from North Central Junior College, could be a difference-maker for the Blinn staff. He signed with the University of Nebraska in the fall.
“He’s a guy who’s made us go from a really good staff to an outstanding group of arms,” McIntyre said. “He’ll be one of those guys at the top of our rotation going out there to win games for us.”
Kyle Mueller (Bellville), a 6-6, 218-pound redshirt freshman, transferred to Blinn from Rice University, and provides the Buccaneers with a big, powerful lefty arm.
“He really, really made huge strides this fall,” McIntyre said. “I think he needed some reps, his post-fall bullpens were probably as good as anybody’s.”
Freshman right-hander Eric Wood (Ontario, Canada) has established himself as a top-five starter for the Buccaneers this fall, and will either be a starting pitcher, and fellow freshman Trent Rape (Waller) was voted the Bucs’ best freshman arm by his teammates this fall.
“I don’t know what his role will be, but we’ll be giving him the ball to go get outs,” McIntyre said.
Redshirt freshman Corbin Oakes (San Antonio Reagan) transferred to Blinn from St. Mary’s. He battled arm problems in the fall and is looking to get healthy enough to provide the Bucs with another left-handed arm out of the bullpen.
Freshman left-hander Michael Vielma (Medina Valley) had an excellent fall and will see time out of the bullpen, while freshman right-hander Karl Malecek (North Vancouver, Canada) will have an opportunity to start games for the Bucs.
“He’s really, really thrown well this fall,” McIntyre said. “He’s probably one of our best freshman arms. He’ll be in the mix for a starting spot.”
McIntyre said he has been pleased with the progression of freshmen Brandon Kirkham (Hendrickson), Trey Wall (Cy-Fair) and J.C. Neighbors (Clear Springs).
Considering that Nick DeSantiago was a fifth-round draft pick by the Atlanta Braves and Dylan Neal signed with Oklahoma, it’s a pretty big statement when McIntyre said he believes Blinn’s catchers will be even better than last season’s duo.
Redshirt freshman Garrett Logan (Sam Houston High) and freshman Holden Cammack (Grapevine) are expected to handle the bulk of the catching duties this season, and freshman Taylor Galvan (Clear Springs) could see time as he works his way back from knee surgery that limited his time in the fall.
Logan was limited by shoulder surgery last season and had just one at-bat for the Buccaneers – an RBI single. He received a medical redshirt.
“Garrett Logan is probably the best receiver I’ve ever coached in my life,” McIntyre said. “There aren’t a lot of balls that don’t stay in front of that kid. It’s impressive. He can shut the running game down between innings.”
Cammack will share time with Logan behind the plate.
“He has a chance to be a really good one,” McIntyre said. “He’s a strong, physical kid with plus arm strength. We’ve got a pretty good situation back there with both of those kids.”
The Buccaneers have four possibilities at first base, and the starter at first base could very well depend on who’s playing across the diamond at third.
Wood, who also pitches, can play both first base and third base, and sophomore Eric Preuss (Brenham) can also play both corner infield positions. Preuss hit .293 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and 27 RBIs last season, and was especially dangerous with runners in scoring position, batting .373 in those situations.
“He just shows up every day, like the sun. He does something every day that’s going to help you win.” McIntyre said.
Wood, who won the Bucs’ home run derby in the fall, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics last year but did not sign.
“He’s got a chance to be special,” McIntyre said. “He’s going to play third or first and probably hit three or four for us, and he’s one of our top four or five arms. He’s got an opportunity to make an impact on day one.”
Freshman D’Andre Heggie (Blue Springs, Mo.) and sophomore Ethan Logan (Sam Houston High) are also in the mix.
“Heggie and Preuss are really, really good for us defensively and Ethan’s an offensive guy who’s gotten a lot better defensively, so we’ve got a lot of pieces of the puzzle,” McIntyre said.
Freshman Josh Garza (San Antonio Reagan), who also plays shortstop, has impressed Blinn’s coaching staff with his glove and is expected to find a spot somewhere on the diamond.
“He’s just too good defensively not to have on the field and he’s proven that every day this fall,” McIntyre said.
Freshman Hayden Vesely (St. Joseph’s) also looks to be in the mix, and when he’s not at second base he could play right field for the Buccaneers.
Freshman Jack Lucero (Cheyenne Mountain, Colo.) will also be in the mix.
The competition at third base will also impact the competition over at first base. The Bucs enter the season looking at both Preuss and Wood at the hot corner. Whichever isn’t playing at third on any particular day will likely play at first base.
Freshman Quinton Evans (Orangefield) has impressed the Buccaneer coaching staff with his glove, and will also get innings at third base.
Sophomore shortstop Jake Kane (Dulles) returns after anchoring the Buccaneer infield last season.
Kane hit .214 with four doubles, a home run and 10 RBIs, but was most valuable to the Buccaneers for his smooth glove anchoring the infield.
“It’s invaluable to have a guy that played as well as he did who can anchor the middle and hold things together,” McIntyre said. “He did an outstanding job for us last year. It’s great to have him back.”
McIntyre said Garza has pushed the incumbent Kane this fall, and gives the Bucs another slick-fielding middle infielder who can spell Kane at shortstop when necessary.
Sophomore Kevin Daniels (St. Joseph’s) returns after earning all-conference honors last season, but this year he’ll be moving to center field, where he takes the positioned by All-American Brandon Lawrence the last two seasons.
Daniels hit .285 last season with four doubles, two triples and 30 RBIs. He also stole 15 bases.
“Kevin Daniels was a huge contributor for us,” McIntyre said. “He ended up playing every day for us midway through the spring, and he did that as a freshman on a very, very good team.”
Tyler Boss (Klein) is also back after an impressive freshman campaign. Boss batted .309 with 10 doubles, a triple, one home run and 21 RBIs.
“Tyler has made strides offensively and he has really, really improved defensively to become an above average defender” Boss said of the right fielder.
Sophomore Markus Carr (Kempner) had just 22 at-bats in 2011, batting .318 with nine stolen bases, and is looking to get much more playing time this season, mostly in left field.
“He’s probably the most athletic kid in our program and he really made some strides offensively this fall,” McIntyre said.
Freshman Colin Kowal (Austin Anderson) can play both center field and left field.
“He’s an extremely athletic kid,” McIntyre said. “He’s a plus-plus runner who really had a good fall for us offensively.”
Sophomore Eric Johnson (Tyler Lee) and freshmen Scott Jones (A&M Consolidated), Neighbors and Vesely will also be in the mix this spring.