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JCU Baseball Preview 2009

March 19th, 2009

After coming up a game short of qualifying for the four-team Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament last season, it’s clear the John Carroll University baseball team has every intention of qualifying for this year’s tournament. “That’s our No. 1 goal,” said senior Michael Krainz. “In my four years we haven’t made it, but I really think this year’s team is capable of doing that.”The 2008 team, featuring All-OAC outfielders Ryan Lewis and Sean McCarthy, finished 10-8 in the OAC. Lewis and McCarthy, as well as Matt Fort, Brandon Kurtz and Marty Smith, three staples of the pitching staff over the past few seasons, have all graduated.With graduation, as is the case each year, new players have to step up.So far, JCU head coach Marc Thibeault has seen a quartet of senior hitters rise to the challenge and lead this year’s squad.Seniors Chris Cairo, Michael Krainz, Matthew Pangallo and Russell Toth led the explosive offensive attack on the annual Spring Break trip that saw the Blue Streaks go 8-1.All four of those seniors hit at least .360 in 30 or more at-bats in Port Charlotte, Fla.A senior led the pitching staff as well on the trip. Paul O’Donnell showed the way by covering 15 innings and allowing just one run to score. He was 1-0 with an ERA of 0.60 in his first two starts.If the Spring Break trip is any indication of how things will go this season, the Blue Streaks should be in good shape.The pitching staff was terrific, posting an ERA of 3.33 in the nine-game span.The offense provided more than enough juice, scoring 88 runs. In each of the first nine games, the Blue Streaks scored at least five runs.In addition to the superb efforts of the seniors, JCU was the beneficiary of .300-plus averages from starters like freshman Tom Hickey and junior Tim O’Brien.Sophomore shortstop John Hastings, after hitting .303 in his freshman campaign, should shine on the left side of the infield, joined by classmate Brian Benander who hit .297 on the Florida trip.Junior Bryan Robinett, a career .297 hitter, should see time in the outfield and at first base.On the mound, sophomores Tony Evanko and Tom Schaberl can be expected to produce in the starting rotation.Evanko struggled on the trip, but his 6-1 record and 1.70 ERA last season that earned him second-team All-OAC honors showed what he is capable of at this level.The bullpen was phenomenal in Florida as sophomore Connor Connell and junior Adam Jenkins both pitched five and two-thirds innings and neither allowed a run. Junior Chris Koller made three appearances to post a record of 1-0 and an ERA of 1.93.Sophomores Michael Eden, John Moonan and Cory Tilden, as well as freshmen Joe Bossard and Chris Eggelton should help bolster the pitching staff.The Blue Streaks are 1-2 since returning from their trip, but figure to be a force to be reckoned with in the OAC.