With the start of the college baseball season less than a week away, it’s time to preview our Boilermakers. Obviously, the past two seasons haven’t gone as planned, but there are reasons to be optimistic about this 2015 squad.
This year’s team looks a lot different as nine players have transferred here from other schools. We also lost a handful of players due to a variety of reasons. The biggest losses will be Jordan Minch and Sean McHugh, as they were both drafted by MLB teams.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the projected starters for this year’s team.
Catcher: With McHugh getting drafted by the Phillies in the 18th round, look for junior Jack Picchiotti to carry the load most of the year. Picchiotti played in 40 games last year at numerous positions and started in 30 games.
First Base: Kyle Wood has this spot locked up for the time being. The redshirt junior played in 46 games a year ago, while starting in 45 of them. Wood led the Boilers with a .302 batting average.
Second Base: Look for transfer Mike Vilardo to start at seoond base for the Boilermakers. Vilardo, who transferred from Penn, batted .304 a year ago and he was also second team All-Ivy league as a sophomore.
Shortstop: After having a strong fall, freshman Harry Shipley will likely be the team’s starting shortstop on opening day. The Fishers, IN native has really impressed the coaches with his strong defense.
Third Base: With Shipley taking over at shortstop, this likely means that senior Brandon Krieg will move over to third. The senior played in 49 games last season and batted lead off 38 times. Look for him to be at the top of the lineup again this season.
Left Field: With the infield being crowded, Lafayette native Cody Strong likely moves to left field. The junior started 46 games last season for the Boilermakers.
Center Field: Commanding the outfield will once again be Kyle Johnson. The junior from California made 46 starts a year ago, all in center field. Johnson will also bat in the middle of the lineup.
Right Field: Sophomore Jeff Evak likely opens the season as the starting right fielder. Evak played in 37 games as a freshman and had the first ever inside-the-park home run at Alexander Field.
Starting Rotation: With Minch deciding to sign with the Cubs, Gavin Downs likely becomes the Friday night starter. Hard throwing, Lafayette native Brett Haan would then move into the Saturday spot. As for the Sunday starter, sophomore Matt Frawley will get some chances there. Also, look for Brian Ghiselli to get some starts on the mound this season. The rotation isn’t set in stone and I believe Schreiber will go with the guy that has the hot hand.
Bullpen: The bullpen should be very solid this year with many guys returning from last year. Joe Eichmann, Mike Lutz, and Tim McElroy were all in the top 10 in appearances in the Big Ten last season. Another reliever to keep an eye on is Matt Gibbs, who won pitcher of the year last season for Purdue.
As you can see, the Boilers have a lot of experience coming back, which will help them greatly. If starting pitching can be solid this year, this team has the potential to be very good. I think we bounce back with a strong year and have a spot in the Big Ten Tournament at Target Field.
We open with a series at Western Carolina next weekend in Cullowhee, North Carolina.