Baseball

    2000 SEASON OUTLOOK

    Go Hoosiers!
    Go Hoosiers!

    Go Hoosiers!
    January 25, 2000

    2000 SEASON OUTLOOK

    Winning games will come the old fashion way for the 2000 Hoosiers. Speed, defense and strong pitching will help Indiana manufacture runs, while holding the opposition in check.
    "We have always been an aggressive team on the base paths and I think that we will be even more aggressive this season," head coach Bob Morgan said. "We have a lot of good athletes on this team and now it is our job to make them good baseball players.
    "Our pitching and defense will be two strengths of this team and I think that our hitting will develop throughout the season. We have a lot of solid players on paper and now they just need to prove themselves on the field."
    The Hoosiers return four of their top five hitters, two front-line starters, and one of the Big Ten's top relief pitchers. A total of 18 letterwinners are back for the 2000 season and a senior class of eight players, including four pitchers, will provide leadership for the Hoosiers.
    Indiana will need to find a way to replace the power provided by Doug Devore who left following his junior season, after being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Hoosiers will also need to find starting pitchers to make up for the loss of Jason Torres and Chad Smith, two of the team's top strikeout men.
    "We will not have as much power as we have had in the past. We will need some players to hit more for average this season," Morgan said. "We are also going to need some young players to step up right away."
    A total of 15 true, or redshirt freshmen, will join the roster this season as Indiana will look to move back into the top four in the Big Ten after back-to-back fifth place finishes. The last two years the Hoosiers have had the opportunity to advance to the four-team Big Ten Tournament in the last weekend of the season, but fell just short.
    Morgan, now in his 17th season, will look to improve upon a season that saw the Hoosiers win 37 games, the most by an Indiana team since 1996. In addition, the Hoosiers will look for their 18th straight winning season.
    "This team has an excellent work ethic and the players feel good about themselves and that they can be a solid ball club this year. We need to work hard during the non conference season to get ready for those Big Ten wars," Morgan said.
    The war will be a little tougher this season, at least on paper, as the Hoosiers play 16 of their 28 league games on the road, including trips to Ohio State, Minnesota, Penn State and in-state rival Purdue.
    "We will not have the advantage of the friendly confides of Sembower Field like we have had in the past so we will need to be road warriors this season," Morgan said.

    Pitching
    Junior Zach McClellan and sophomore Brad Edwards give Indiana two of the top young guns in the Big Ten. That duo, combined with one of the conference's top closers, gives the Hoosiers a solid foundation on the mound.
    McClellan had a breakout season last year as he posted a 7-1 record, the eighth most wins in the Big Ten. He had 18 appearances and seven starts and enters the season with a career mark of 10-1. Last year he worked 48.1 innings and struck out 26 and started four games in Big Ten play.
    "McClellan has great velocity on his pitches. Last year he proved that he could pitch with anyone in the country and keep us in any game. He has the opportunity to put up some great numbers this season," Morgan said.
    Edwards had a solid freshman campaign last season as he fanned 69 batters, the most among any returning pitchers, in 55.2 innings. The left-hander made 11 starts last year, the most among returning Hoosiers, and posted a 4-2 record. Edwards averaged 11.16 strikeouts per game, the most among any hurler in the Big Ten and made six starts in conference play.
    "He should continue to improve, in this his sophomore season. He increased his fast ball by four-to-five miles per hour in the off season. Both he and McClellan give us two solid Big Ten pitchers," Morgan said.
    Last season the Indiana pitching staff was as solid as any in the conference. The Hoosiers led the league in overall ERA (4.86) and strikeouts (456) while the opposition hit a league-low .268 against them.
    The third spot in the rotation will be held down by junior David Ferris. Ferris has appeared in 28 games and made 11 starts in his career, with nine of them coming last season. He posted a 3-2 record and fanned 54 batters in 55.1 innings in 1999. His five Big Ten starts was second among returning pitchers.
    "Ferris is a solid number three starter and he gives us depth in the rotation," Morgan said.
    Depth is a key to the entire Indiana staff. Morgan will look to any one of four players to fill the final spot in the rotation. Senior Fred Graf and junior Nick Otte bring some experience to the table. Graf worked in eight Big Ten games last year and all 19 of his appearances on the season were in a relief role. He has started just once in 42 career games.
    Otte pitched in 17 games last year and made three starts. He led the staff with eight wins (8-1) and ranked sixth in the Big Ten. He owned a 4.26 ERA and fanned 43 batters while walking just 14 in 38 innings of work.
    Senior Tom Willerer or freshman Nick Vitielliss will also receive an opportunity to fill the final spot in the rotation. Willerer worked 18 innings in 14 games last season and owned a 4.00 ERA.
    The four-man Big Ten rotation should feature two right-handers and two left-handers for the Hoosiers. Any of the pitchers that do not make the rotation in the fourth spot will build the foundation of a strong bullpen in 2000.
    Senior Chris Wilson anchors that bullpen after coming off an Indiana-record eight-save season last year. Wilson appeared in a team-high 24 games and posted a 4-2 record in 39.1 innings of work. He struck out 47 batters while walking just 16. Wilson can also play in the field at first base if need be, though Morgan is counting on him to close the door on the opposition.
    "Chris is a real leader. Having him sitting in the bullpen waiting is a real asset for us. His role is to come into the game when the game is on line and he relishes that role," Morgan said.
    Before Wilson gets into the game the Hoosiers will look to a number of different pitchers for middle relief.
    Transfer Quinn Moore, senior Brad Personett, sophomores Matt Rice and Mark Elder and freshmen Carrington Fisk, Matt Mondok and Ryan Smith will give the Hoosiers a deep bullpen.

    Catching
    Catching will be one of the biggest questions as the Hoosiers enter the season. Brandt Childs who started 43 games last year graduated. Morgan will look to a junior, a sophomore and two freshmen who have a combined 11 career starts and 64 at bats.
    Junior Rob Stastny played in 26 games last year and made seven starts with 39 plate appearances. He is a solid athlete with some offensive punch in his bat.
    "He could be a real asset for us offensively. We need to work with him on his defense. If he can develop his throwing arm he could be a solid receiver for us," Morgan said.
    Sophomore Eric Farley played in 21 games last year and in his 16 at bats collected five hits. He, along with a pair of newcomers in Kyle Davis and Kevin O'Brien, give the Hoosiers defensive options behind the plate as all three possess strong arms.
    "We will need to solidify this position before the Big Ten season. Early on in the season I think that it will be catching by committee," Morgan said.

    Infield
    First base will be similar to the catching situation as Morgan will look at a number of different players during the non conference season. A redshirt freshman and a pair of sophomores will each get a chance to earn the job.
    Sophomore Michael Woodside played in five games last season and had four at bats. His classmate Gibran Hamdan is in a similar situation as he appeared in six games a season ago and had seven plate appearances.
    Redshirt freshman Joe Sadler will also see time at first.
    "Sadler has some pop offensively, he needs to work on his defense while Hamdan brings a lot of defense to the table. Woodside provides help both offensively and defensively," Morgan said.
    Sophomore Mark Minor saw a lot of action at first base in his 46 games last season, but Morgan would like to more of himat shortstop or third base this year.
    There are no question marks at second base. Senior Benji Clause played in 40 games last season and has 125 career games under his belt. He hit a career-high .308 last year, scored 41 runs and stole 15 bases. He has swiped 35 bases in his career. But, it is his improved defense that should be a key this season.
    "Benji has worked on, and improved his defense and throwing in the off season. He is a hard worker and brings his lunch pail to practice every day. He is one of those guys that needs to be more consistent at the plate. We are counting on him this season," Morgan said.
    Sophomore Eric Blakeley is one the Hoosiers' top athletes according to Morgan and should be one of the anchors defensively up the middle at shortstop. Kevin Mahar will be a contender for some relief at second base.
    "He has improved his throwing and he can run and has some pop in his bat. He will need to work on his consistency at the plate," Morgan said.
    Blakeley played in 23 games last season and collected a .314 batting average. He can also play second base, backing up Clause.
    Freshman John Bestler showed strong defensive skills in the fall and should give the Hoosiers depth at shortstop.
    Junior Dan Haegele will be given the first opportunity to win the third base job. The team's top hitter from a season ago spent much of the year as the Hoosier's designated hitter. He put up solid numbers in 1999 to earn All-Big Ten third team honors as he hit .370 while playing in, and starting all but one game. He collected 39 RBI with 10 doubles and three homeruns and led the team in runs scored with 59. He will be one of the key run manufacturers as he led the team with 29 stolen bases last year.
    "Dan is the toughest out in our lineup. He is this team's best overall hitter and one of the top players in the conference," Morgan said. "He had a solid season last year and we will look for the same from him this year."
    Minor can also fill the role of the team's third baseman. He hit .263 last season with three homeruns and 22 RBI. Freshman Vasilli Spanos had a solid fall season and according to Morgan, with continued improvement, should see some playing time this year. Sophomore Nick Evans, a good hitter, could also see time at third base or as a designated hitter.

    Outfield
    A threesome of veterans make up the Hoosier outfield, an outfield that is rich in defense and deep in experience. The trio of senior Jason Williams, junior Blake St. Clair and sophomore Tim McNab combined to play in 130 games, drive in 86 runs and hit 15 home runs last year.
    McNab will patrol center field for the Hoosiers. Last season he hit .358 in 35 games and hit four home runs and drove in 15.
    "Tim has a great arm and he covers a lot of ground," Morgan said.
    Williams, a former transfer from Indiana State, hit .335 last season and drove in 31 runs in 51 games. He has plated 67 runs in his two seasons with the Hoosiers.
    "Jason had an outstanding season last year in center field but we feel that he will better in left field," Morgan said. "We will look for him to continue to improve offensively and be a solid Division I hitter."
    St. Clair was fourth on the team with eight home runs and ranked second with 40 RBI. He hit .346 and was a perfect 14-of-14 in stolen bases.
    "Blake seems to be a better fit in right field. He has gotten bigger and stronger in the off season and is becoming more aggressive both offensively and defensively. He is really coming into his own and turning into an excellent player in the Big Ten," Morgan said.
    Morgan will also try to find playing time for senior Rich Berich, a player he feels is one of the Hoosier's stronger hitters. Along with Berich, classmate Kory Sietz, sophomore Vince Volpe, and freshman Carlton Bragg add depth to a strong outfield.


    © Indiana University Athletics, 1999

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