Tiger baseball team hoping to win with pitching and defense
With a strong pitching staff and speedy position players, the Cowley College baseball team will attempt to play sound, fundamental baseball as they seek to defend its conference title.
The Tigers, ranked No. 13 in the NJCAA Division I preseason baseball rankings, will open their season by hosting Redlands Community College at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7. The teams will play a second game in El Reno, OK at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.
With powerful hitters such as Mike Parker, Dylan Delso, and Matt Anderson off to four-year schools, the Tigers will rely on returning players such as centerfielder A.J. Shaw (27 stolen bases) and third baseman Ryan McBroom (.290 average) to get on base and manufacture runs.
"We will have a different personality than last year's team, it will be more old fashioned baseball," Cowley head coach Dave Burroughs said. "We will be built around pitching, defense and speed. If we can throw strikes we will have a chance."
The Tiger pitching staff should continue to be a strength with the return of sophomores Levi Skinner (68 strikeouts), Tyler Day (1.32 ERA), Seth Holman (32 strikeouts, five walks), and Ryan Jenkins (1.65 ERA).
Austin Sanders, a transfer from Wichita State University, which signed early with McNeese State University, will also see time in the starting rotation or as a long reliever. While, Conner Murray, a transfer from Kansas State University, has a good arm and will help the pitching staff.
Freshmen pitchers expected to make an immediate impact are, Storm Rynard, Nathan Gieber, Parker Rigler, and Cameron Paley from Jacksonville, FL.
"I like our pitching," Burroughs said. "We have got a nice blend of freshmen and sophomores."
Other pitchers that will be in the mix for time on the mound are, Alex Graham, Bradley Green, Maverick Macy, and Brennan Rollin.
"We have got some good, young freshman that will transfer over nicely," Burroughs said.
Freshman Dillon White from Sterling, OK will likely start at catcher, while fellow freshman Butch Rea from Topeka will start at second base. Matt Elliott and Bryce Whitchurch are freshmen that will battle for playing time in rightfield, and freshman Bobby Bassler will be in the mix for the role of right-handed designated hitter.
"We will look for those young guys to be thrown into the fire and play for us," Burroughs said.
Other freshmen that will add depth to the team are, Dylan Kuhn (infield) and Chad Reibenspies (catcher).
Cowley also added four NCAA Division I transfers to this year's squad. Along with Sanders and Murray, Kris Molter from Jacksonville University, and Justin Burba from the University of Oklahoma, will be key figures on this year's team.
"Those guys have been a good fit and have bought into what we are trying to do," Burroughs said.
Sophomore Gage Grant, who served as the team's backup catcher as a freshman, will make the move from catcher to first base.
"He is starting to mature into a good player," Burroughs said.
Sophomore Zach Mills (.250 average, 21 RBIs) and Burba will battle for the starting spot in leftfield, while returning centerfielder A.J. Shaw will provide the team with some stability in the outfield. Shaw will bat leadoff after batting .309 with a team-high 27 stolen bases as a freshman.
"Those sophomores have been through the grind of a conference season and know what it takes to be consistent," Burroughs said.
Cowley ran away with last year's conference title, finishing eight games in front of second place Fort Scott in the Jayhawk Conference Eastern Division. The Tigers finished the season with a record of 45-11 overall and 31-5 in the Jayhawk East.
However, the Tigers finished short of its goal of qualifying for the JUCO World Series as they lost in the semifinals of last year's Region VI Tournament.
Cowley will play a challenging non-conference schedule before opening conference play against Highland on Feb. 27.
"It should be an exciting year," Burroughs said. "We will need to manage to the strength of our team. We always expect to compete for conference and region championships. It's a great conference, so it should be a challenge."