Butler baseball coach Steve Farley has aspirations of his team “being in the top three in the Horizon League” this season.
There is just one problem: injuries.
The Bulldogs prepared for their opening day tilt against Fresno State on Friday by taking a day off for rest on Monday.
“Getting people healthy [is important],” Farley said. “This is our earliest starting date since I’ve been here.”
Among the hurt Bulldogs are sophomore third baseman Patrick Guinane (ankle), whom Farley called “our best hitter last season,” and junior first baseman Jim Risi (hamstring), a transfer student who Farley said “could be our best hitter this season.”
Also out is senior pitcher Dom Silvestri, who underwent surgery during the offseason.
Despite Silvestri’s absence, Farley said one of the team’s big strengths is pitching depth.
This is good news for a team that was fifth of seven conference teams in earned run average and had the second most wild pitches in the league.
“There’s not a secret to stopping wild pitches,” junior catcher Nick Hladek said. “We have to work on throwing strikes and improve from last year.”
One area where the Bulldogs were better last season was on offense.
The team was second in the Horizon League in batting average and runs scored and was third in on base percentage.
Still, Farley said this season’s team is a better hitting team on paper than last season’s.
“Last season, BBCOR [Bat Standard] deadened the bats and lowered offensive output,” Farley said. “It took our hitters a long time to get used to it.”
In addition to Guinane and Risi, Butler returns senior infielder Griffin Richeson and senior outfielder Mike Hoscheit to fuel the offense.
Richeson has the second-highest batting average and on base percentage of all returning Bulldogs, behind Guinane.
Hoscheit has the third-highest batting average and second-highest slugging percentage of the team’s returning players.
Upperclassmen will likely be relied upon this season, as 22 of the team’s 32 players are a junior or senior.
“We have a lot of leadership collectively,” Hladek said. “There won’t be one guy who we’ll have to rely upon.”
Two of those leaders will be Silvestri and senior pitcher Mike Hernandez, who were named two of the league’s three top pitchers in a recent poll of the league’s coaches.
That same poll had Wright State as the team to beat this season, a team that Farley said Butler “tries to be like.”
“Some people might overlook us, but we’re going to make some noise in the league,” Hladek said.”