Baseball team hopes to improve as star players return

PHIL TOR | STAFF REPORTER | ptor@butler.edu

After falling one game short of the Big East tournament, the Butler University baseball team is back and ready to make another run at the postseason. The team welcomes back a good group of veteran players who will mix well with a talented 2015 recruiting class.

According to head coach Steve Farley, the Bulldogs pitching staff will make the difference.

“We have more depth on our pitching staff this year, and we think that will really help us,” Farley said.

Pitching is the key to any team’s success, and Butler has quite the staff to lead the charge through the season. Juniors Jeff Schank, Dan Pobereyko, transfer Ottavio Dattolo and freshmen Zach Barnes, Brock Balderson and Quentin Miller will all see a plethora of playing time during the 2016 campaign.

Junior pitcher Chris Myjak was a leader on the 2015 roster, but his season was cut short due to elbow troubles. He is still recovering from the injury.

“It was a huge loss when RHP Chris Myjak suffered a season ending elbow injury last spring,” Farley said. “He’s worked hard on his rehab program, and we are hoping he can be a factor by the second half of the 2016 season.”

The Bulldogs will also return their two top hitters from last season. Sophomore center fielder Tyler Houston and sophomore shortstop Garrett Christman led the team with .324 and .320 averages respectively. Senior catcher Chris Marras will also be a returning starter and will look to add on to his impressive 2015 numbers.

Defensively, the Bulldogs were excellent last season committing only 61 errors led by Houston, Marras and redshirt junior left fielder Drew Small.

Still, Farley believes they can improve even more this season.

“We set the school record last year with a .970 team fielding average, and we think we can be even better this year,” Farley said. “Our key will be consistencyplaying hard every game, grinding out at bats and not beating ourselves with walks and errors.”

The Bulldogs will start their season this weekend when they travel to Birmingham, Alabama for a four game set with Samford University, and then a three game series with Southern Charleston University.

Farley said the weather will always be a factor when playing in Indiana.

“We have to go south to play in warmer weather early in the season, and the southern teams we compete against have the advantage of having been outside for the majority of their workouts,” Farley said.

The Bulldogs will also travel to Port Charlotte, Florida over Spring Break to play a tough non-conference lineup. Butler will compete against Big 10 powerhouse Michigan State University, Northwestern University and in-state rival Indiana University. Also on the schedule is a match-up with ACC standout Boston College.

The Bulldogs then make quick trips to St. Louis University and Indiana State University before starting conference play against at Villanova University on April 8.

This Butler team definitely has the pieces and the leadership to make it to the postseason and make a run at the Big East Championship.

“Our ultimate goal is to win the Big East championship,” Farley said. “That starts with us finishing in the top half of the regular season standings and qualifying for the Big East Tournament.

“As with other Big East sports, there is great parity in baseball— any team can beat another on any given day. We want to improve our culture and have great team chemistry. We need our seniors to step up with solid leadership.”

Butler’s home opener will be held on March 2, as the Bulldogs host Marian University at Bulldog Park at 3 p.m.

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