Bisons look towards new offense and new coach in 2007
Thursday, February 8, 2007

Feb. 8, 2007

For the 2007 Lipscomb Bisons things have changed. With the loss of much of their 2006 starting lineup the Bisons will be forced to look toward their new recruits, many of which are freshman eagerly anticipating their first glimpse of NCAA Division I baseball.

In addition, Jeff Forehand will take over as head coach for the Bisons. The coaching staff will be rounded out with Brian Ryman being named the new assistant coach, and Lantz Wheeler returning as the pitching coach.

Returning as the starting catcher for the Bisons will be sophomore, Caleb Joseph. Last season Joseph batted .265 with 35 hits and 22 RBIs in 45 games.

"Caleb is coming off a really good year and we anticipate him carrying the bulk of the load behind the plate," Forehand said.

Sophomore Andrew Kincaid and freshman AJ Thomas are also expected to see some playing time in the catcher's role.

"When we went through fall practice everybody made significant strides as far as who would occupy most of the time behind the plate," Forehand said. "But if we had to start tomorrow, Caleb would probably catch the majority of the innings with the others running close seconds."

The first base position will be one decided by pitching match-ups with right-handed hitter Jared Pichiottino and left-handed hitter Justin Sanders likely receiving the majority of the playing time. Freshman Ryan Wilkins is also expected to play a large role at first.

"Fortunately Jared is a right-handed hitter and Justin is a left-handed hitter which will give us a lot of options as we match up against different pitchers," Forehand said. "Also Ryan Wilkins has really been making some significant strides towards playing time at first base.

"With all three of those guys, whoever does not occupy the first base option will have great opportunity to fill in for us at the designated hitter's role and also as a pinch hitter."

The Bisons will begin the season with four options at second base; Clay Lehning, Kevin Nelson, Andrew Nickerson, and Kevin Gavigan.

"They are all the same type player and they all have the same type build," Forehand said. "All of them have their quality that I feel like will be able to give us a dimension at second base, and all of them have a skill that they can do better than the others. So we will have to see how that shapes out at second base."

At shortstop, junior transfer Ben Williams is expected to receive the majority of the starts.

"He is a good runner, good hitter, and a good defender," Forehand said. "We anticipate him being a big part of our middle infield."

In addition, sophomore Branden Cadavid will likely see some time at shortstop. Last season Cadavid batted .309 with 17 hits and 10 RBIs in 23 games.

"Branden might be considered our best infielder and best defender overall," Forehand said.

At third base, in addition to Cadavid, freshman Donnie Amos will be relied on heavily.

"Donnie came in as a very good high school player," Forehand said. "He will probably spend some time in left field as well. He is a very good hitter so if third or left is not an option, he could also see some time as the designated hitter."

Left field is another position which could be determined by pitching match-ups. Eric Abend, a right-handed hitter, and Allen Bolden, a left-handed hitter, are expected to see the majority of the playing time.

In centerfield, senior transfer Casey Bond is expected to receive most of the starts.

"He will be a big part of our lineup and probably stabilize centerfield for us," Forehand said.

Junior transfer, Shane Simpkins is expected to receive a great deal of the playing time in right field. The Bisons also expect Simpkins to be a big offensive force for the team this season as well.

Michael Fahs, Dallas Crouch, Tyler Courson, and Cody Morris will also see some playing time in the outfield for the Bisons this season.

On the mound, Matt Schnelly will once again be looked towards to lead a young staff. Schnelly, a senior right-hander, led the team in innings pitched (96) and strikeouts (91) last season. Schnelly was also second on the team in ERA (4.88) and opposing batting average (.276). After pitching a complete game shut-out against a talented Pittsburgh lineup last season, Schnelly became the Bisons first player ever to be named Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Week.

"Matt is going to anchor our pitching staff," Forehand said. "He was a big part of the team last year and he only continues to get better. We look for him to chew up a lot of innings for us on the weekend."

In addition to Schnelly, junior Paul Piennette will likely return as a conference starter this season.

"Paul made some quality starts last year and I look forward to him doing the same thing this year," Forehand said.

The final conference starter is expected to be senior transfer John King. King is a 6'3" right-hander from Peachtree City, Georgia.

Several pitchers are expected to see time as a mid-week starter, with senior Rob Smithson being one of them. In 17 appearances last season, Smithson was 4-2 with a 6.85 ERA.

"Smithson is another senior that can add some experience," Forehand said. "We don't know what his role will be as we start the season, but he will either be a starter or reliever for us and can add some experience and depth."

Despite such a large pitching staff, every pitcher is expected to be relied heavily upon in some capacity over the season. With such a large group of freshman pitchers, the success of the Bisons bullpen will reflect in large part the ability of the younger and less experienced freshman to handle the pressure.

Freshman pitchers include right-handers Matt Bowling, Taylor Merry and Dylan Ray, and left-hander Rex Brothers. Sophomores Josh Spicer, Jerry Young, Mike Zenko, Charles Williams, and Brandon McClurg will be joined by upper-classmen Chris Burnett, Sean Szymanski, and James Ogden.

The closer's role is expected to look much like it did last year, with sophomores Williams and McClurg likely to play a large role.

"McClurg and Williams will be a huge part of our bullpen," Forehand said. "Both of those guys are solid, solid pitchers coming out of the bullpen for us and can provide some quality innings for us."

The Lipscomb baseball scene has certainly changed. Equipped with a new coach, numerous pitching recruits, and a drastically altered lineup the Bisons are confident that their place in the conference standings will improve also.

By Krissy Wade