Topper offense looks for big 2012 campaign

Casey Dykes/

Kurt Carson

WKU will return several key members from a lineup that found plenty of success a season ago.

The Toppers recorded a .297 team batting average that tied for third-best in the Sun Belt Conference in 2011.

Head Coach Matt Myers said all the returning players and the depth that’s been created behind them have the potential to be a combination that is “once again very strong.”

“You have a chance to see a junior and senior type lineup out there,” Myers said. “I think the maturity factor has a chance to be a strength for us from an offensive standpoint.”

The core of leaders includes senior outfielders Jared Andreoli and Ryan Hutchison, senior third baseman Casey Dykes and senior second baseman Ivan Hartle.

Myers also said he expects newcomers like freshman outfielder Matthew Paculan, junior infielders Adam Lavelle and Steve Hodgins and junior catcher/first baseman Devin Kelly to all have impact this year.

“The team chemistry and the way we play together is different than it’s been the last couple of years and I think it’s better,” Dykes said. “The guys we’ve brought in, the guys that have stepped up and the guys that have been here have really meshed together well.”

Myers said he thinks the WKU defense may be the strongest part of the 2012 squad.

The Toppers had one of the league’s best defenses last season, tying for first with a .976 fielding percentage.

That’s the kind of defense Myers said he expects to see again this year.

“Defense might be our best asset,” Myers said. “I just think we are really solid, and we can do a lot of things throughout the game.”

Andreoli started all 57 games a year ago and ended the season with a perfect fielding percentage in left field.  He’s recovering from offseason labrum surgery but said he is “good to go” for the season-opener.

“I’m 100 percent,” Andreoli said. “It’s been good to get out there and get some at-bats with the team instead of watching on the sidelines. The shoulder’s fine.”

Myers said fans can expect to see players like Andreoli, Hutchison and Dykes in the lineup on a consistent basis.

However, he also said the depth that he has on the roster will allow him to be more creative in matching up depending on who the opponent has on the mound.

“We’ve been playing a lot of combinations,” Myers said. “In the past you’ve seen seven or eight of the same guys in our lineup day-in and day-out.

“I really think this year we’re probably going to see a right-hander Friday night, so we have a chance to put in five left-handed hitters in that lineup if we want to go that way.”

Myers said he doesn’t have a projected lineup at this point but instead will mix and match depending on situation.

“We can go physical, we can go fast, and we can play small ball,” he said. “From a competition standpoint and getting everybody involved, you could see three different lineups Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’m excited to see this offense go, and I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”