Summer or Not, Here They Come! A UE and USI Baseball Preview:
Summer months may seem like a hopeful daydream with the recent dreary weather in the Evansville area, but the boys of summer are ready to play ball! The University of Evansville Purple Aces and University of Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles both are set to occupy the diamond today.
Returning 7 positional starters should be a nice foundation for the Aces, who won their first Missouri Valley Conference title since 2006. The dark news, however, is that several key contributors have moved on. The loss of Kyle Freeland on the mound will leave a glaring hole. Freeland defined the word “stud” and has earned that moniker into the A ranks of the minor leagues, posting 1.15 ERA combined between two leagues for the Colorado Rockies organization. For the 2014 Aces, he posted a 1.90 ERA with a 10-2 record in 14 starts.
- SP, Kyle Freeland (10-2, 1.90 ERA, 128 K)
- SP, Cole Isom (6-5, 3.95 ERA)
- C, Kyle Pollock (.310 BA, 50 RBI, 5 HR)
Key Returning Players:
- OF, Kevin Kaczmarski (.315 BA, 50 RBI, 4 HR)
-Led team in batting average, tied for first in RBI.
- OF, Josh Jyawook (.298 BA, 31 RBI, 64 Hits)
- P, Alex Gould (2.04 ERA, 2-0 in 11 appearances)
Evansville must rely heavily on new starters and newcomers to step up in a big way if they’d like an opportunity to repeat the recent MVC championship. The conference selected Wes Carroll’s squad to finish 5th in the league, but did name Kevin Kaczmarski to the preseason All-MVC roster.
The first games of the 2015 season will take place at Arkansas - Little Rock. Today is the first of a 3 game set with the first pitch scheduled for 3:00. Tomorrow and Sunday at the same place will round out the opening series.
USI had a different path for the postseason that slotted them as the #1 team in the nation coming into the 2015 season. The Eagles put together an improbable run that ended in the school’s second national title in 5 years. In the final game of 2014, USI ousted Colorado Mesa University 3-2 in 12 innings of play. Similar to Evansville though, much of the pitching prowess has moved on. Jonathon Wandling is playing A+ ball for the Toronto Blue Jays farm system and posted a 3.38 ERA in 12 games as a pro (most recently for Dunedin). Wandling transferred from Kentucky Wesleyan to play one season for USI and was a pivotal part of the championship run. More than just Wandling, USI has lost a ton on the mound:
- P/Utility, Jon Wandling (10-1, 2.90 ERA, 84 K), (.314 BA, 17 RBI)
- P, David Toth (6-1, 1.47 ERA)
- IF/P, Matt Bowles (9-4, 3.18 ERA)
Key Returning Players:
- OF, Kyle Kempf (.342 BA, 36 RBI, 91 H, 23 SB)
-Named to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Player Watch
- OF, Hamilton Carr (.347 BA, .434 OBP, 21 SB)
- Ben Wright (2.00 ERA, 7-3,)
-Lone returning starter.
The offensive firepower should be enough to make USI a threat, but can Tracy Archuleta’s Eagles earn the #1 spot for another year on the mound? Knowing the recent history of these teams, a betting man wouldn’t wager against them. Great Lakes Valley Conference coaches selected USI to win the GLVC East.
2015 opens on the road at #2 Tampa, who has already started its season with a hot 6-0 start. The Eagles will play a 3-game series down south with today’s first pitch scheduled for 5:00.