NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Lipscomb baseball team began its preparations for the 2016 season Friday with the first official team practice of the spring.
The Bisons enter their 10th year under the guidance of head coach Jeff Forehand. He has directed Lipscomb to a 245-276 record over the last nine seasons and led his team to a second Atlantic Sun Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth last season.
“All baseball coaches throughout the country are excited that today is finally here,” Forehand said. “The energy level will be out of the roof today with everybody’s excitement level up and ready to crank it up. Luckily the weather is going to be good for us the next couple days, so it looks like a good weekend for us to get started.”
The 2015 Bisons closed the year at 39-20, marking the best single-season win total in the program’s NCAA era.
Lipscomb returns 25 letter winners from last year’s NCAA Regional team. Additionally, five of the everyday field starters return as do 12 pitchers. The Bisons will also welcome 12 newcomers to the diamond.
A key ingredient to the success in 2016 will be the pitching. After losing just one member of the weekend rotation, Lipscomb returns the two-headed monster of Jeffrey Passantino (5-1, 2.69 ERA) and preseaon All-Conference selection Brady Puckett (7-3, 4.54 ERA), both of whom are sophomores. LSU transfer and southpaw Cody Glenn will look to set the tone as the potential Friday night starter.
Redshirt senior Jaesung Hwang (2-1, 2.73 ERA, 2 SV) and the highly anticipated redshirt freshman Kyle Kemp will be called upon to close the door from the bullpen, with some help from the incoming freshmen.
For Lipscomb offensively it all starts at the top. Sophomore center fielder Michael Gigliotti, a preseason All-Conference selection, looks to build on a year that saw him rack up numerous awards, including Louisville Slugger and NCBWA Freshmen All-America honors as well as second team All-Conference. The lefty who batted .336 a year ago, returns as the top hitter from 2015. He led the nation with 22 bunt singles and will bring a 32-game on-base streak into the opener.
First baseman Adam Lee took major steps a year ago and led the team with eight home runs after hitting .298. He will be relied upon as a leader both on and off the field as a redshirt senior. The Bisons also return senior catcher Chuck Vazquez, who earned all-conference honors last season, becoming the first Lipscomb backstop to be named all-conference since Caleb Joseph in 2008.
Junior Hunter Hanks will be making the move from third base to shore up the middle infield at short stop after the departure of Grant Massey, a first team All-Conference and A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year. Massey was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 26th round of the 2015 MLB draft.
The Bisons will do some limited scrimmaging this weekend and it will be open to the public. After going at 3:30 on Friday, they will get started around 1:30 on both Saturday and Sunday.
Forehand will be looking to get the pitchers back on the mound so they can have some looks at live hitters.
“The first couple of days I am anxious to see how the guys have improved with their individual workouts in the offseason,” Forehand said. “We will gradually work the team into game situations. We have a lot of youngsters who were here in the fall, but there is a lot of difference from fall ball to spring regular season games, so they will need to come out prepared and ready to get rolling.”
The Purple and Gold will open the 2016 season Feb. 19 when it hosts Eastern Kentucky at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium for a three-game set. Friday’s first pitch for the series is scheduled for 4 p.m.
For more information on season tickets, visit HERE or please call the Lipscomb ticket office at 615-966-5383.