May 4, 2007

Hillcats Make Great Strides in Second Season

The second official season of Rogers State baseball saw the Hillcats achieve a number of first. The season began with the first ever home game at the new Hillcat Complex and finished with the RSU closing the books on its first winning season at 28-23.

“I’m very proud of our ball club,” RSU Head Baseball Coach Ron Bradley said. “The kids really competed hard all year and it was great to get that first winning season under our belt.”

RSU put together three winning streaks of at least five games and won 15-of-16 in one stretch that included a season-high 10-game streak. The Hillcats outscored their opponents 304-248 and compiled a .298 team batting average and a 3.97 ERA.

After stumbling out of the gate to a 6-11 start, the Cats caught fire in early March. A doubleheader sweep at University of Science and Arts (USAO) on March 3rd ignited the hot streak. Bradley’s club reeled off 10 wins in a row before dropping a game to Oklahoma Baptist, then rebounded to win five straight. The Hillcats swept doubleheaders from USAO, Oklahoma Wesleyan (twice), College of the Ozarks, Hastings College, Dordt College and Mid-American Christian University. RSU closed the season by winning 5-of-6 to finish five games above .500. A pair of late season rainouts against Hillsdale Baptist College cost the Hillcats a shot at their first 30-win season.

Sophomore left fielder Ryan Littlejohn became the first Hillcat to post a batting average above .400. He paced the club offensively at .410 with four home runs and 28 RBI. The Verdigris product enjoyed a 15-game hitting streak and also became the first RSU player to hit for the cycle (recording a single, double, triple and home run in a single game) on Mar. 8 at Oklahoma Wesleyan.

Senior transfer Brent Hill set the single season record for pitching victories in his lone season on The Hill. Hill led the RSU pitching staff with a 9-2 record and 2.99 ERA. He also set a new record for strikeouts with 78 while yielding just 19 walks in 14 appearances.

2007 was also a year of lasts for Hillcat baseball. Fifth-year seniors Eric Bunch and Todd Koscheski took their final at-bats in an RSU uniform. Bunch and Koscheski were members of Bradley’s inaugural recruiting class at RSU and will leave the program with their names etched into the record books. Bunch was the leading run producer for the Hillcats in 2007 with 35 RBI. Koscheski, also known as “The Big Cat,” led the team in homers for the second consecutive season. Together they hold the career records for nearly every offensive category at RSU.

2007 also marked the last time RSU would be a team without a home. The Hillcats settled into their new digs at the beautiful new Hillcat Complex and gained instant credibility by finding a home in the prestigious Sooner Athletic Conference. Rogers State will play a full conference schedule and will be eligible for the conference tournament in 2008.

The future looks bright for RSU Baseball. A number of key contributors will return for the 2008 campaign. Junior center fielder Greg Speed hit .360 while racking up 23 stolen bases. Junior Andrew Sherman started 47 games at second base and posted a .323 batting average. Junior third baseman Zack Bacon hit .321 with four homers and 25 RBI and junior outfielder Travis Harold hit .375 in limited at-bats. Littlejohn will return after a monstrous sophomore season in which he racked up 55 hits, 18 extra-base hits and a .634 slugging percentage.

Sophomore Brett Trzcinski returns as the Hillcats best arm out of the bullpen. He led the club with a .258 ERA and held opponents to a .216 batting average. Freshmen Creston Moon, Josh Walker and Grant Cosby should see an increase in innings and starters Tyler Whitaker, Dusty Carriger and Bryan Hollenbeck will be back to anchor the rotation.

Coach Bradley and his staff will work tirelessly this spring on the recruiting trail in hopes of making a big splash when the Hillcats enter conference play in 2008.

“We took a big step forward in a lot of areas of our program this spring,” Bradley said. “Hopefully we can use this season as a spring board to bigger and better things in 2008.”