MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. - As the baseball season approaches, the Georgia College & State University sports information department will take an in-depth look at the 2009 Bobcat team in a three-part series. Today's installment is the first of three, focusing on the pitchers and catchers.
As any good baseball fan knows, success begins on the mound. What happens with the players that touch the ball on every play is particularly important to Bobcat head coach Tom Carty, who spent two seasons as Georgia College's pitching coach before taking over as skipper in 2008.
"We need guys who will keep it around the plate," said Carty. "At this level, you can't afford to give guys extra baserunners. We don't have blow-it-by-you type of pitchers, so we need to keep guys off the basepaths."
The pitching staff returns two from last year's weekend three-man rotation. Junior Clete Jessup (Darien, Ga.) is positioned as the Bobcat No. 1, while sophomore Eric Pettepher (Gordon, Ga.) returns as well. Jessup was 5-3 with a 5.21 ERA a year ago, while Pettepher provided a 5-4 mark with a 4.28.
"Both of these guys threw 60-plus innings for us last year, including significant conference innings," Carty said. "With experience will hopefully come improvement."
Junior transfer Dylan Lightell (Rosamond, Calif.) is a highly-touted recruit that tossed 103 innings at West Hills Community College, and has the "stuff to be a 1-or-2".
Sophomore Alex Burkard (Alpharetta, Ga.) spent last season as a redshirt, and has one of the best work ethics on the team, according to Carty. The big 6-foot-7 lefty adds some zip. He also threw in 10 mid-week innings as a freshman in 2007.
Kyle Cravey (Cordelle, Ga.) is an experienced guy from South Georgia College, working as their No. 1 pitcher a year ago. Junior Ryan Tabor (Lawrenceville, Ga.) returns from missing the entire last season with an injury. Tabor will be counted on for his experience and as a left-hander with velocity will fight for starts. Tabor was impressive in 2007, going 2-0 with a 3.19 ERA in mid-week starts.
The bullpen will have the tall task of replacing the best closer in program history, Michael Newman (2005-08). The leading saves man at GCSU Newman also had a rubber arm, setting the Division II record for career appearances with 118.
Junior Martin Dewald (Manheim, Germany) will fill the closer role, pulling on his experience as the stopper for Gordon College for two seasons, and as the closer for the German National Team.
To get from the starters to Dewald will fall on a four-man committee. Righties Ryan Parson (Madison, Ga.), Clay Mobbs (Cedartown, Ga.) and Mike Tokessy (Kanata, Ontario) as well as lefty Andrew Harris (Madison, Ga.) will work the matchup game in the middle innings.
Harris has the most Georgia College mound experience, throwing in 32 games over the last two years, and adds an extra dimension with his submarine delivery.
Parson is a walk-on that could figure into a few starts as well. He throws strikes and uses a strong breaking pitch effectively. The hard-throwing Mobbs is "one of our more competitive guys" according to Carty and has a great "split and curve". Tokessy utilizes control, a solid change and experience as a reliever at Monroe County Community College in Rochester, N.Y.
Luke Rogers (Watkinsville, Ga.) is a lefty that joins righties Josh Collins (Boston, Ga.) and Jamie Ammons (Baxley, Ga.) in long relief roles. The junior Ammons has the most Georgia College mound experience, throwing in a combined 15 games over the last two seasons.
Redshirting the season will be freshmen Jack Frankhouser (Sylvania, Ga.) and Chris Schaive (Alpharetta, Ga.) and junior Tanner Moore (Thomasville, Ga.). Freshman catcher Galen Smith (Valdosta, Ga.) will join them on the redshirt list.
Behind the plate is a regular log-jam, led by two-year starter in senior Pete Paris (Scranton, Pa.). Paris hit .341 with three home runs and 41 RBI in 2008, also scoring 41 times. The lefty bat brings surprising speed from the catcher spot, taking 15 bases a year ago. He also has solid extra-base power, with a team-high 102 total bases and 20 doubles.
Backing him up and figuring into the designated hitter mix is 2008 All-Peach Belt Conference (PBC) DH Richard Pirkle (Norcross, Ga.). Surprising everyone as a rookie a year ago, Pirkle hit .338 with a team-high eight round-trippers, 35 runs and 35 RBI. Pirkle slugged at a team-best .581 clip and was named to the Preseason All-PBC Team.
Sophomore Benton Yaun (Marietta, Ga.) was locked in a platoon at first base a year ago, and will focus more on catching duties this season. Yaun hit .236 with a home run and 14 RBI in 2008. Sophomore Billy Henley (Cherrylog, Ga./Westminster Christian (Fla.)) redshirted last season, and adds to the depth at catcher. He did log 12 at-bats as a freshman in 2007.
The Bobcats celebrate opening day at home this season, squaring off with No. 36 Erskine College Thursday, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.
Visit www2.GCSU.edu/Bobcats to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame. The GCSU Department of Athletics sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, GCSU prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement.