The Butler baseball team prepares for their 2023 season with a scrimmage. Photo by Abby Fostveit.
JAKE KAUFMAN | SPORTS REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Under the new helm of first-time head coach Blake Beemer, the Butler baseball team hopes to turn a new leaf. Following a challenging 2022 season in which the Bulldogs finished with a record of 20-35-1, former head coach Dave Schrage announced his retirement after six seasons with the program, leading to Butler hiring Beemer.
Beemer, who spent the last four seasons at his alma mater Ball State as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, says that he is very encouraged by what he has seen from his team thus far in practice.
“We have had a lot of guys step up so far,” Beemer said. “So I think we’ve got a lot of options, we just need guys to step up and do it consistently.”
In the Big East Preseason coaches poll released on Dec. 20, Butler was picked to finish last of the eight teams in the conference. While the Bulldogs finished 15 games under .500 in 2022, they were competitive in games, losing 10 games by two runs or less. The team had leads in a number of those games that they blew. This is something that senior pitcher Cory Bosecker mentioned was due to the mental aspect of the game as opposed to the physical.
“Last year, we lost some games just because we weren’t mentally tough enough,” Bosecker said. “This year, I feel like overall we’re all more tough mentally and physically.”
A challenge for Beemer and the Bulldogs will be trying to replace the production of Butler’s top hitters from a year ago with many of them graduating or transferring after the season. Team home run and RBIs leader Aaron Steinhart, batting average leader and All-Big East Second Team selection Travis Holt, and a valuable contributor in James Gargano, have all moved on from the program.
Senior catcher/infielder Kollyn All is the Bulldog’s most productive returning hitter from a season ago. All batted .262, hit five home runs and knocked in 28 runs. Senior pitcher/first-baseman Lukas Galdoni is another important returner for Butler’s offense having added four home runs of his own. While Galdoni acknowledges that there are indeed some shoes to be filled in the lineup, he believes a number of different players are up to the task. One of those players is first-year shortstop/third baseman Joseph Urban, who Galdoni sees as a resemblance to one of his prior teammates.
“I see a lot of Gargano in Joey (Urban), kind of an infielder that came in and got converted to the outfield and just hits the ball really well,” Galdoni said. “I think he’s gonna be one of the better freshman hitters I’ve seen since I got here.”
The Bulldogs have an additional new offensive weapon in Jake DeFries, a graduate transfer from Georgia Gwinnett College. DeFries finished the 2022 season with a batting average of .321, scored 61 runs and had 58 stolen bases, which is just 12 less than the entire Butler team in 2022.
There is also a lot of turnover on the Butler pitching staff from last season to this one. Last year’s team leaders, in both ERA and saves, Derek Drees and John MacCauley both graduated while first-year contributors Adrian Vega and Cole McDaniel transferred to other programs.
Seniors Aaron Barokas, Bosecker and Galdoni are some of the most experienced returning pitchers. Bosecker led the team with 68.0 innings pitched, Barokas tied for the team lead with 17 appearances and Galdoni finished second on the team with three saves. In addition to the returners, the program also brought in four first-year pitchers. While the rotation features a lot of new faces, Bosecker has been impressed by the passion and work ethic of the group.
“All our guys have been working their tails off,” Bosecker said. “We might not be the most talented team on paper, but you put us all together and we’re going to have a good group.”
In addition to the roster changes, the team has described the environment as different altogether. Coach Beemer has created an environment of excitement for his players. Galdoni explained that it is similar to a Little League environment, which he thinks will help the group in the future.
“I feel like that’s a big thing,” Galdoni said, “Guys are excited about going to practice even if it’s cold, if it’s rainy, we know we’re gonna have fun practicing and that there’s going to be energy there. Everyone has bought into the system and seems engaged and on a mission to prove themselves.”
The Bulldogs will be tested right away as they play the No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers in a two-game series in early March. The rest of their non-conference schedule doesn’t get much easier, as Butler has 20 of their 27 non-conference games on the road, with only one of the 27 being at home. The increased competition of their non-conference schedule is something that Coach Beemer believes will help the group once they get into Big East play.
“I told the guys, we won’t see anything new come big each time, we will have seen everything that we can see on a baseball field,” Beemer said. “We are going to see the best team that the country has to offer right now in LSU… There will be nothing that we see in Big East play that we won’t have seen in the first 20 games.”
Butler’s season begins Friday, Feb. 17 in Lexington, South Carolina against Fairleigh Dickinson, where the Bulldogs will play a four-game set. The first home game is scheduled for April 2 against Eastern Illinois. Big East play will begin on April 6 against the Xavier Musketeers with a three-game weekend series.
While analysts have set the ceiling very low for Butler, the team is more focused on developing stronger habits and building a winning program under new leadership. The 2023 baseball season is the first chapter of a new era, and the Dawgs look to start the story off on the right foot.