Claremore, OK – The Rogers State University baseball team concluded the competitive portion of its fall workouts last week and will now set its sights on Feb. 5, 2007, Opening Day.
Coach Ron Bradley deemed the fall campaign a successful one as the Hillcats went 2-0 in game competition and turned in a strong effort in three other scrimmages against outside competition.
“We’ve had a great fall,” Bradley said. “Our ball club has improved in every aspect of the game. We have more depth at every position than we did a year ago and the competition for playing time has been intense.”
The Hillcats defeated Northern Oklahoma College–Tonkawa, 6-4 at the NSU Fall Classic in Tahlequah. RSU also edged the Ontario Blue Jays, a team of high school prospects from Canada, 3-2 in the final competition of the year at the new RSU baseball facility.
RSU opened the fall portion of its schedule with a 14-inning scrimmage at NEO. The Hillcat pitching staff was impressive, yielding just two runs to the Norsemen on the day. RSU also faced off with Connors State College for 20 innings in what Bradley called “a very competitive scrimmage.” The Cowboys reached the Junior College World Series a year ago and six members of that squad have joined the RSU baseball team this fall.
Perhaps the highlight of the fall was the opportunity for RSU to unveil and showcase its new baseball facility to the public for the first time. The Hillcats battled Northern Oklahoma College-Enid in scrimmage play on Sept. 30, in front of an estimated crowd of 400 spectators.
“We had a tremendous turnout for our first home scrimmage,” Bradley said. “We’re very proud to finally have our own facility. It’s already made a huge impact for us as far as recruiting and to have that type of support from the community for a fall scrimmage is really exciting.”
Fans will have plenty of new names and faces to learn next spring as 24 newcomers join 12 returning players from the 2006 squad. The Hillcats added 13 junior college transfers, two transfers from four-year schools and nine high school signees to the fold.
Bradley said he was impressed with the way newcomers Blake Hollingsworth (Connors State/Pryor HS) and Zack Bacon (NOC-Enid/T. Memorial HS) carried the load offensively for the Hillcats.
“Offensively we should have a lineup that is a threat to score 1-9 in the order,” he said. “Blake and Zack both came in and impressed us with their power and ability to drive in runs.”
Bradley said he was also pleased with the strides his team is making on defense but added he is still looking for more consistency from his club in the field. Centerfielder Greg Speed (Connors/Canada) and second baseman Andrew Sherman (Rose St./Verdigris HS) should bring stability to their respective positions while two-year starter Jake Brumble has continued to impress at shortstop.
The final piece of the puzzle is the pitching staff. The Hillcats lost a number of one-and-two-run games a year ago due to a lack of bullpen depth. Bradley said he feels this year’s staff appears capable of reversing that trend. Left-handed returning starter Dusty Carriger will be joined by senior transfer Brent Hill (Southwestern/T. Hale), junior Brian Hollenbeck (Cowley County/Collinsville), sophomore Tyler Whitaker (Connors/Collinsville) and a promising young crop of freshmen that should make an immediate impact on the hill.
The 2007 Hillcats will be anchored by the leadership of fifth-year seniors Eric Bunch and Todd Koscheski. Both players have been in the RSU program since its inception in 2005 and will be playing their final season for the Hillcats this spring.
“We’ve come a long way in two years,” Bradley said. “We feel like the pieces are now in place for us to build a top-notch program here at RSU.”
The Hillcats will open their spring schedule against St. Gregory’s Feb. 5, on the RSU campus.