Among the men’s athletic programs at Texas State, the baseball team prospered the most in the Southland Conference, making postseason appearances in its last 16 years in the league.
Now, it’s on to the Western Athletic Conference, the higher profile that goes with it and, with that, just a little more credibility as they recruit the state of Texas and its wealth of baseball talent. The Bobcats notched six wins against ranked opponents last year, which they finished 32-24.
A new season begins today, and it begins at home with three games — against Missouri State at 2 p.m. today, against Tulane Saturday at 1 p.m. Saturday and against Sam Houston Sunday at 3 p.m.
“I’m proud and excited to start the season facing high caliber competition,” said Head Coach Ty Harrington. “All three programs are run well and are coached by accomplished coaches.”
Longtime catcher Andrew Stumph returns as a leader on the team and will see time in his familiar spot behind the plate as well as at first base to start the season.
“Stumph has the most experience on the team, and he’s worked hard to reach a different level this season,” said Harrington.
Infielders Garrett Mattlage and Nick Smelser, who combined for 70 hits, 42 runs and 28 RBI last season, also return to bolster the lineup along with .304 hitter Colby Targun and healthy centerfielder Morgan Mickan.
Mickan will lead off to start the season, said Harrington, he already is the pulse of the team.
Kyle Finnegan, Taylor Black and Scott Grist will get the first opportunities to start on the mound this season. Finnegan played the most of the three last season, logging 93.1 innings, but Grist posted the lowest earned run average, a 2.08.
Finnegan is a power pitcher with a strong breaking ball. Grist has returned this spring to his more natural throwing motion.
Hunter Lemke will be the closer. In 2012, he posted the lowest ERA on the squad at 1.25 and only allowed three earned runs in 21.2 innings, striking out 15 batters.
“Hunter has grown into our closer,” said Harrington. “He has the physical and emotional weapons to get big, tough outs in tense, high-pressure situations for us.”
Redshirt freshman Andrew Boes and senior Mitchell Pitts also will pitch a lot, as will Jeremy Hallonquist, who is returning from injury. Covey Morrow and Donnie Hart will serve as lefty specialists.
Newcomers Cory Geisler and Austin O’Neal are two newcomers who should play quite a bit. Geisler, a freshman, should see time in left field, but can also play first base, along with O’Neal.
Catcher Tyler Pearson, a transfer from Rice, may get the opportunity to relieve Stumph behind the plate and make the Texas State veteran available for some starts at first base.