SFA Baseball 2012 Preview: Bullpen
Feb. 9, 2012
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Lumberjack baseball team put together a breakout season in 2012, winning a program record 37 games and coming up just one win shy of an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. This season the expectations are even higher with a veteran group poised to take the next step.
SFA led the league in both pitching and fielding last season and return the core of its team, led by all-Southland Conference catcher Jarid Scarafiotti, starting pitcher Zack Taylor, closer Alex Moshier and sophomore shortstop Hunter Dozier.
This is the third in a five-part series previewing the Lumberjacks, position by position, leading up to the 2012 opener against Portland on February 17 in Beaumont.
This year the entire SFA pitching staff returns just four saves in its career - three from Colton Eubanks who will transition to a starting role this season, and one from this year's stopper Alex Moshier.
A 6-0 right-hander from Nederland, Moshier was slated to move into the stopper role as a junior in 2010, but arm surgery derailed those plans and opened the door for West who never relinquished the title. Now, on the heels of a stellar year that saw him rebound well from Tommy John surgery, the job is Moshier's to keep.
"Alex (Moshier) has proven over the last three years that he is a phenomenal pitcher in the late innings," SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas said. "It was a bit unlucky for him the past two years that we had such a good closer in Jason West that Alex did not get much of a chance to close out a lot of games, but now we expect him to jump into that role and do well in the role that he is primed and ready for."
He led the `Jacks in ERA last year, posting a 1.37 mark in 17 appearances after returning to the bullpen in early March. He held hitters to just an .097 average, allowing just six hits in 19.2 innings of regulated work and even held left-handers to 2-for-18 on the year.
Still, SFA has several options to turn to in the late innings should Moshier not be available, including junior transfer Cass Ingvardsen. A hard-throwing righty originally from Livingston, Texas, Ingvardsen was a late-round selection by the New York Yankees in last year's draft out of Weatherford College and was recently ranked as the season as the No. 8 draft prospect in the Southland Conference by Baseball America.
"We're very excited to have Cass here after he decided not to sign with the Yankees," Cardenas said. "He's a mid-90s guy with a hard slider who we feel like we can give the ball to in any situation and he's capable of getting through it."
In addition to those power arms at the back end of the pen, Cardenas also has a slew of other arms to turn to such as Brad Oates and Cory Ochs, along with others who all will likely see time as midweek starters at some point throughout the season. Seniors Oates and Ochs each have logged plenty of quality innings over the last two seasons to earn Cardenas' confidence.
Ochs posted a solid 2.92 ERA in just 12.1 innings as a junior in 2011 after putting in 44.0 innings as one of SFA's top relievers in 2010; meanwhile, Oates was SFA's top middle reliever last year, tossing the most innings of any Lumberjack relief arm who didn't either convert a save or make a start.
He used held hitters to 40 points lower on their average than as a sophomore and controlled the running game as well, picking off a pair off of runners also.
"Cory (Ochs) is someone who doesn't have great velocity, but is able to use his control and bulldog mentality to bear down and get guys out," Cardenas said. "While Brad (Oates) is a strike thrower and a good enough athlete to field his position, making him someone who we feel confident to bring in if we are up by two or down by two and is an ideal kind of middle-inning guy who can bridge us to our power arms at the end of the game."
Fabian Arcizo, Kevin Bishop, Brett Higginbotham and Cody Priest are also right-handed relief options with experience for the `Jacks after each logged at least 10 innings a year ago, while Justin Choate will also see several opportunities to take the mound in relief as well.
Sophomore Reid Landers and redshirt freshman Mac Cleaveland could also play key roles, providing left-handed options for Cardenas out of the pen. Landers did not pitch in the conference tournament, but saw his innings increase later in the year, finishing with a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings as a true freshman.