Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 10, 2013

COLLEGE BASEBALL PREVIEW: Maple Leafs look to reverse fortunes on the diamond

By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — The Goshen College baseball team has not experienced a whole lot of success over the years. Since the program’s inception in 1957, the Maple Leafs are 645-1,1017.

New coach Alex Childers aims to change that, and he wants to start by changing the brand.

That, Childers said, starts with instilling a winning mindset, making Goshen College a tough place to play and developing the mental toughness that can make the difference between a win and a loss in a close game.

With just 19 players on the Goshen roster in 2013, there is not much depth to work with.

But Childers is pleased with the roster he has.

Experience is on the plus side of the ledger, with six seniors and nine upperclassmen.

“It’s about quality at-bats, quality outings, and playing hard,” Childers said. “Our goal (offensively) is to be tough outs, prolong innings, just find a way, whatever it takes. We are going to be aggressive on the bases and take calculated risks.  We have an experienced pitching staff and I think the sky is the limit.”

Position-wise, the Maple Leaf lineup is coming into focus.

Versatile senior Corey Johnson saw action at catcher, in the outfield, at second base and on the mound in 2012, and is penciled in as the center fielder in 2013. Johnson hit .254, but added 10 walks and was plunked 15 times for an on-base percentage of .371. Johnson swiped eight bases and was caught just once, giving him 29 stolen bases for his career.

New faces

A couple of new faces will see action alongside Johnson in the Maple Leaf outfield. Junior Paxson Miller and sophomore Matt Austin, after seeing the bulk of their time on the mound last season, will be primarily position players in 2013. Also in the mix are a quartet of freshmen: Jeremy Wiebe, Brandon Wright, Dominic Arrowood-Fouce and Trevor Emery, after he returns from an injury.

In the infield, junior shortstop Arick Armington is an anchor. Armington, an Elkhart Christian Academy product, started and played in all 49 games for Goshen last season. Armington hit .306 with seven doubles, 17 RBIs, and a team-high 13 stolen bases.

First base will be anchored by another holdover, senior Caleb Yoder, a Fairfield graduate. Yoder hit .253 with 10 RBIs in 2012.

Newcomers will get the early opportunities at third base and second base, respectively. Freshman Jesse Quintanilla will man the hot corner, with fellow freshman Bryan Aponte, a product of the Puerto Rick Baseball Academy, getting the nod at second. Junior Josh Schlabach saw action in 48 games (36 starts) in 2012 and adds depth, Wright could also see time at first, especially when Yoder pitches.    

Experienced hurlers

On the mound, experience is back for Goshen, with 79 percent of 2012’s innings pitched (266 1/3) back in 2013.

A group of seniors will anchor the top of the rotation, with Yoder (5.23 ERA, 53 1/3 IP) and Spenser Oversen (5.40 ERA, 41 2/3 IP) leading that group.

Sophomore Zach Thompson is also a key piece of the staff. Thompson led Goshen in starts (10), wins (4), innings pitched (55 1/3) and strikeouts (41). Fellow sophomore Matt Austin started five games in 2012, including a complete-game victory over Lourdes. Austin will see time in both the rotation and the bullpen in 2013.

After missing the entire 2012 season, senior Luke Hucker returns in 2013 and will be a candidate for a spot in the rotation by the time the Crossroads League season arrives, if not earlier.

Miller was second on the Maple Leaf staff in appearances in 2013 with 16. Along with Armington, Miller will see the bulk of the late-inning work in close games for Goshen.

With the Crossroads League schedule of doubleheaders Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, pitching is at a premium, and the Maple Leafs appear to have more depth at that critical position than in recent years.

Freshmen Alex Mosbarger, Bryan Palmer and Aponte will join senior Moises Ramirez as bullpen options for Childers.

Calling the signs behind the plate for the Maple Leafs will be senior Benjamin Kelly, who has seen action in 73 games over the course of his career. Kelly hit .234 last season with nine RBIs and will also see some at-bats at DH with Wright serving as his backup.

The Maple Leafs are scheduled to travel to Lourdes University on Wednesday for a doubleheader. A three-game home series with Cardinal Stritch University is tentatively scheduled for next weekend with a 4 p.m. game on Friday and a doubleheader on Saturday with a noon first pitch.