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Pitching is a top priority as Bisons work this fall
Mike Grace
Mike Grace

Thursday, September 09, 2010

In college baseball spring success often takes root during fall workouts.

The Lipscomb Bisons do not play any off-campus opponents during fall drills but on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays they play intrasquad games. With 10 new arms added to the pitching staff this season coach Jeff Forehand and his staff want them to get all of the opportunities possible to work.

“All the falls are different in terms of things you want to look at,” Forehand said. “With 10 new pitchers we want to see how they are going to fit in. We want to see what role might fit best for each one of them.

“We also want to see how much our returning players have improved. A lot of them played in summer leagues. We want to see what they learned in the summer months.”

Those 10 new arms include three high school pitchers, four transfers and three players who were on the team last season but did not pitch.

Josh Smith, the No. 1 pitcher in the rotation last season, finished his eligibility and is now a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization. Davey Hackett and Mike Grace return as starters.

“Hackett and Grace have the opportunities to be starters again this season, but we want to see where their roles might fit best with this year’s team,” Forehand said. “Hackett had some really good outings. We think he can only grow from that. We would like to think he can be a starter.

“Grace had the best summer of any of our pitchers. He could be our fourth starter, but we would like to get him back in a middle relief role.”

The freshman pitchers are Chris Orphanos, Hunter Brothers and Will Blalock.

A trio of junior college pitchers, Connor Sinclair, Tyler Newhart and Gil Rehwinkel, will also get long looks as possible weekend starters.

“The same things go for the new pitchers,” Forehand said. “We want to give them every opportunity to show us how they are going to fit in. Right now we are just looking to see who can compete the best.”

Developing consistency on the mound was a struggle last season. Forehand is expecting pitching to be vastly improved over the 2010 season.

“I think we have addressed the pitching issue,” Forehand said. “We had those guys who had to learn in the fire last season. “Now we can step those guys down and they can pitch in roles that better suit them. We want to see where Richie Goodenow fits into the weekend rotation.”

The Bisons also have to find replacements at centerfield, third base, second base and first base.

Ryan Wilkins filled the first base role last season. Tennyson Dodd and Goodenow, a transfer from Vanderbilt who also pitches, are possible replacements along with Blalock.

. “Richie is a good baseball player,” Forehand said. “He does a good job as a hitter. When he first went to Vanderbilt he was doing more position play than pitching.”

Andrew Nickerson is now working with the team as a student assistant leaving a spot at second. Kyle Henry and freshman Aaron Spragg are competing for playing time there.

Zach Messer or T.J Hoelzer will play either shortstop or third.

“We hate that we lost Cory Hale at third,” Forehand said. “That is the only position we weren’t expecting to lose because of graduations.”

In center field the Bisons lost the speed of Tyler Wilson. Forehand expects Ricky Coleman to fill that role.

“Ricky doesn’t have the experience that Tyler had,” Forehand said. “He is going to have to go in there and be ready to do it. The sky is the limit for him. Shawn Mehring could also get some playing time there.”

The games are played at approximately 4 or 4:30. Oct. 12, 13 and 14 the fall drills close with the Purple and Gold world series.

Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.