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Wednesday, October 14, 2009Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand has discovered something this fall - no one pitcher is going to be able to replace left-hander Rex Brothers.
Brothers left school last season after his junior year when he was selected 34th in the first round of the Major League Entry Draft by the Colorado Rockies.
Also missing is Brandon McClurg, a right-hander who is still working with the team as a student coach. Only senior right-hander Josh Smith remains from the weekend pitching rotation.
“When you sit back and look at it, it could be 10 more years before we replace a first round draft pick,” said Forehand. “We hate to lose a pitcher of Rex's caliber. But we think we have improved our depth hoping that we can replace a truly outstanding pitcher in Rex with several guys.
“We have to make up not only for Rex, but we have to replace McClurg, a veteran pitcher who kept us in every game we played each weekend. Hopefully, we have some guys with an upside who can come in here and replace those two veterans.”
Smith put up solid numbers as a junior last season leading the Bisons staff with seven wins. He also posted a 3.86 earned run average.
Nationally, in NCAA Division I, Smith ranked 29th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.1), 32nd in strikeouts (101) and 42nd in strikeouts per nine innings (10.25).
“Josh will be the veteran we lean on a little bit more,” said Forehand. “Josh is a solid pitcher.”
When Forehand finalizes his 25-man roster for the spring he was to have 10 pitchers in line to give him much needed depth.
“On paper people might look at us and say we are not as strong at the top,” said Forehand. “And they are probably right if you look at it on paper. But from the 10th man up we are strong.”
If Forehand had to start the season this week his starting rotation would be Smith, junior college transfer Dannie Strable, sophomore Davey Hackett and senior Matt Bowling.
“Strable has pitched a year of junior college and decided to transfer early,” said Forehand. “He is showing three pitches with decent velocity.”
Joining Strable in the list of junior college transfers are right-hander Chad Fromm from Cleveland State, right-hander Mike Grace from Jefferson College and left-hander Alex Ross from Maplewoods Community College. Josh Chism, a utility player who can also pitch, has transferred to Lipscomb from Itawamba Community College. He is a right-hander.
“Fromm could be a starter or reliever,” said Forehand. “Grace, Ross and Chism are guys we will be counting on out of the bullpen.”
Forehand also plans to have Martin Grude and Josh Cotham, both sophomore right-handers, work out of the bullpen.
Forehand is counting on Hackett and Bowling to be much improved over last season. Hackett, a right-hander, finished the season with a 0-3 record and a 7.58 ERA. He made 11 appearances, including five starts. He gave up 27 runs, 25 earned, allowed 36 hits and struck out 17.
Bowling, also a right-hander, was 1-2 with a 7.04 ERA. He made 24 appearances, but only started twice. In 38.1 innings he scattered 43 hits and gave up 40 runs, 30 earned. He struck out 29 batters.
“Davey’s first outing was at Georgia Tech, his second was at Auburn and his third was at Vanderbilt,” said Forehand. “Games like that will quickly get your feet wet.
“Davey has really matured. He is really working hard.”
Forehand is also happy with the progress of Bowling as he prepares for his senior season.
“Confidence has been the big thing for Matt,” said Forehand. “He throws the ball 90-plus miles per hour and has a hard breaking ball. In his first three years he has bounced from being a starter on Tuesday or Wednesday to being a reliever on the weekends and then he was a reliever all the time.
“He and Davey both got some innings in and got better as the season progressed. Both he and Davey have a little pep to them this fall. Davey has to throw strikes. In his first three years he has bounced from being a starter on Tuesday or Wednesday to being a reliever on the weekends and then he was a reliever all the time."
Also expected to step up and challenge for pitching time are three true freshmen _ Chris Nunn and Blake Fonfara, both left-handers; and right-hander Brandon Rowe.
“On this level everybody they face will be a good hitter,” said Forehand. “Those guys are recognizing the pace of the game is little faster and they aren’t going to beat people just by throwing a little harder.”