2013 baseball season preview
At a glance
2012 Record: 25-28 overall; 10-10 GPAC (T-6th)
Head Coach: Jeremy Geidel (16th year)
Record at School: 233-471 overall
Returning Starters: Heath Benker (P), Ray Finley (C), Kyle Godfrey (P), Kyle Ivanoff (SS), Jeremiah Luber (P), Jordan Stirtz (P), Daniel Wilkerson (RF), Andrew Yerrell (3B/DH)
Returning Letterwinners: See returning starters, and Jordan Ahl (P), Sean McCartney (C), Miles Barrow (OF), Nolan Schaefer (DH), Nick Thill (P)
Key Losses: Zak Goodrich, Anthony Flores, Tate Bedwell, Steven Ivanoff, Josh Anderson
Key Newcomers: Cameren Gause (OF), Alex Cargin (2B), Tyler Harris (3B), Luke Parish-Ward (P)
2012 GPAC All-Conference: Zak Goodrich (first team); Ray Finley (second team); Andrew Yerrell (second team)
2012 GPAC Gold Glove Team: Martin Rodriguez (LF); Zak Goodrich (CF)
A school record 25 victories in 2012 serves as the springboard upon which the 2013 Bulldog baseball team hopes to build upon. Head coach Jeremy Geidel enters his 16th season at the controls of a program with a clear upward trajectory. Concordia went from 14 wins in 2010 to 19 in 2011 and ultimately 25 in 2012.
A Bulldog club that Geidel praises for its work ethic is driven to take another step forward and outperform its seventh-place positioning in the preseason GPAC coaches’ poll.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction right now,” senior shortstop Kyle Ivanoff said. “Last year’s season was still building and we think we can build more on that season. We’re looking for a 30-plus win season this year. We all believe we can do it. I think that’s an achievable goal and we’re expecting nothing short of that this year.”
Considering eight of last season’s losses came by just a single run, the 30-win plateau could be in reach with Ivanoff leading a hard-working group of returnees. Geidel likes what he has seen this offseason from his mix of veterans and newcomers.
“You can go always look back at the end of the season and see about five, six or seven more games that were close that a mistake here or an at bat here cost us a game,” Geidel said. “We really felt that even though it was a good season for wins, there’s still some unfinished business to take care of. In the 2013 season we hope to expand on that win column because of the returners that we have and also the additions we have made.”
Ivanoff became a fixture in the lineup and at shortstop last season as he started all 53 games and finished second on the team with a .320 batting average. He will again be counted on to provide stability on the left side of the infield and to improve upon his .906 fielding percentage in 2012.
Ivanoff will be joined in the lineup by returning second team All-GPAC performers in catcher Ray Finley (.319 BA, 2 HR, 29 RBI) and third baseman Andrew Yerrell (.299, 24 RBI). This trio figures to be the heart of an offensive attack that ranked second in the GPAC in batting average in 2012.
“They’re obviously going to be the nucleus of our batting lineup,” Geidel said. “Last year we had some good successes in our hitting statistics. I think the reason we didn’t win 30-plus games were the strikeouts we had and also the lack of doubles. Those are the two major areas we’re looking at improving for this year.”
The Bulldogs will have to make these improvements without the services of Concordia’s 2011-12 Male Athlete of the Year Zak Goodrich, who finished third in the GPAC with a .390 batting average and was named the conference’s Gold Glove centerfielder.
Ivanoff knows it will difficult for one person to replace that kind of production. The good news is that newcomers such as outfield transfer Cameren Gause and freshmen in second baseman Alex Cargin and third basemen Tyler Harris look ready to provide immediate help.
“(Goodrich) was definitely a hard player to lose last year, but we have two great transfers coming in with Cam Gause and (left-handed pitcher) Luke Parish-Ward,” Ivanoff said. “We also have some great freshmen that came in as well – Tyler Harris and Alex Cargin, so I think we’ll have a lot of guys that will step up this year.”
Sophomore Daniel Wilkerson (.268, 2 HR, 19 RBI) hopes to pick up some of the slack in the outfield. He put up solid numbers in his freshman campaign and took to right field quickly despite a lack of experience at the position. He tied for the team lead in homers and ranked second with seven doubles.
The Bulldogs also figure to employ a formidable pitching staff in 2013. A group that finished third in the GPAC in ERA last season returns six of its top eight hurlers in terms of ERA from 2012. That list is headed by starters Kyle Godfrey (3-3, 3.14 ERA, 42.1 IP) and Jordan Stirtz (2-9, 3.37 ERA, 54.0 IP), who combined for 20 starts last year.
Geidel also expects good things from senior right-hander Jeremiah Luber (1-1, 2.05 ERA, 41.0 IP), who worked mostly out of the bullpen in 2012. The Waverly, Neb., product will move into a full-time starting role this season. His biggest strength is his command as evidenced by his mere 12 walks in 41 innings last year.
“I definitely think that’s going to be a strength,” Geidel said of his team’s pitching. “Coach (John) Couch does a great job preparing our pitching staff, getting them to be mentally tough on the mound. He’s also been working with them on their pitch counts and also on what pitches they are throwing. It’s a group we’re going to look to to keep us in the ballgame.”
The bullpen features right-handers Heath Benker (3-1, 2.47 ERA, 22.2 IP) and Jordan Ahl (1-0, 2.68 ERA, 15.2 IP) at the back end. Benker, a junior from Florence, Colo., will be counted on to step into the closer role vacated by Josh Anderson and shut the door on the opposition in the late innings.
With a solid pitching staff serving as the backbone, the Bulldogs enter 2013 optimistic that they can continue the recent upwardly trending win totals. The relatively low expectations outside the program mean little to this focused bunch.
“I really think being picked seventh in the conference is a good spot for us,” Geidel said. “We could go up and use that as motivation. We did lose a lot of seniors, but we feel good about the new guys coming in and the talent level of our returners. They’ve done a great job in development of their strength and conditioning, but also their skill level.”
Concordia begins its season on Saturday at 1 p.m. with a doubleheader at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan. Geidel’s squad will also play MidAmerica Nazarene and Manhattan Christian in its Kansas tour before ending the month of February. The Bulldogs also look forward to a trip to Florida, where it will play games from March 9 – 16. The first conference doubleheader will take place March 29 at Nebraska Wesleyan.
“I think the guys are eager,” Geidel said. “This is a working group. They don’t talk a lot. They really get down to business. It’s been fun to coach them. The motivation is there internally.”
14 February 2013
Junior Heath Benker will step into the closer role in 2013, hoping to help the Bulldogs close the door on another school record win total.