Lexington, Ky. – A season of new beginnings is just over the horizon for the Transylvania baseball team, which will look to continue its climb up the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings during head coach Zack Getsee's second year in Lexington.
The 2017 campaign presented a peppering of challenges for the Pioneers as they faced a multitude of injuries throughout their lineup and pitching staff. The team finished the season with an overall record of 13-24 and 8-16 in the HCAC.
"Last season did not go exactly how we planned it," reflects Getsee. "We certainly needed more depth, and that was one thing we addressed throughout the 2016-17 recruiting process. Once our players were banged up, we started to lose some momentum as a team."
A replenishing of resources among the Transylvania pitching staff is one area where Getsee and the Pioneers harbor hopes of sustaining a full season. The Transylvania pitching staff will have a new look this season after the Pioneers graduated six pitchers who accounted for over half of the team's innings pitched last season. From the new and diverse rotation, the Pioneers will look to freshman Nick Craddock, who possesses the skills to develop into a number one starter.
In 2018, the Pioneers' pitching staff will feature redshirt sophomore Austin Butts, a transfer from McHenry Community College. Butts brings the experience of pitching in valuable games at McHenry and brings the intel of how to be successful at the college level.
One returning arm to keep an eye on this season is sophomore Collin Johnson. Last season, Johnson pitched 38 innings for the Pioneers and compiled a record of 2-2 to go along with one save. Johnson also tallied 20 strikeouts on the season to bring a veteran presence to a budding Transy squad.
Despite the relatively green experience among his developing rotation, Getsee is optimistic about the talent they bring to the mound. "Nick, Austin, and Collin have all been outstanding for us so far," says Getsee. "I'm excited about getting to see them compete day in and day out."
Peering over the infield, the Pioneers will rely heavily upon senior shortstop Jared Williams, who led the team with 40 hits last season. Williams added 20 RBI on the season, the second-most of any Pioneer. "Everything for us offensively starts with Jared Williams," comments Getsee. "He's a dynamic player who is going to hit at the top of our lineup."
Prior to the HCAC portion of the schedule, the Pioneers will face a challenging nonconference slate that features numerous worthy opponents, both at home and on the road. "We open up road play in March in St. Louis playing North Park, Benedictine, and Webster," measures Getsee. "We then move on to Spalding, who regardless of record is always a tough and excitable game since we're so close geographically and bump into the same kids in the recruiting process."
Other compelling matchups will pit the Pioneers against Capital University and John Carroll University out of the Ohio Athletic Conference; all three schools are part of the Great Lakes Region which features additional opponents for the Pioneers outside of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
"We also play against Denison who had a great season last year, and Calvin who has gotten better year after year," adds Getsee. "We follow that up with DePauw, who was one of the top teams in the country last year, all before we open conference play. "
One can't-miss contest on the Pioneers schedule is Wednesday, March 28 when Transylvania hosts archrival Centre College in Lexington. The game will be played just minutes from campus at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, the summer home of the Lexington Legends Single-A baseball team.
"Playing Centre is already unique in itself, but when you couple it with playing at a minor league park it becomes even more special," comments Getsee. "I know that the turnout on both sides will be tremendous. That type of atmosphere is something the kids remember for a long time."
The season gets underway this weekend as the Pioneers face off against Wabash on Friday, February 24 before taking on Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Saturday, February 25 at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana.
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