Pitching a focus at WKU’s baseball media day

Pitching a focus at WKU's baseball media day

Brad Stephens

Starting pitching was never much of a worry for WKU coach Chris Finwood in 2010.

During a weekend series last season, Finwood could consistently rely on the arms of Shane Cameron and Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year Matt Ridings.

But with Ridings and Cameron gone, the Toppers’ rotation will look different in 2011.

Finwood said at Thursday’s baseball media day that senior Brian Edelen, sophomores Tanner Perkins and Taylor Haydel, and true freshman Justin Hageman will all contend for starting spots.

“Although we don’t have a lot of starts under our belt on the mound, we do have a lot of innings,” Finwood said.

Edelen went 4-2 with 3.78 ERA in 2010, while Perkins went 3-4 with an ERA of 5.27.

Haydel made just three starts in his freshman season. He finished with a 3-4 record and a 6.94 ERA.

Hageman, a 32nd round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2010, turned down the minors to come to WKU. He had a 1.32 ERA in his senior season at Hopkinsville High School.

“Hageman has as much talent as anyone I ever saw on Friday night in the SEC,” Finwood said. “He’s a true freshman, but he brings a warrior’s mentality out to the mound.”

While the starting spots seem to be up for grabs, the Toppers return their closer from 2010, junior Rye Davis.

After missing the 2009 season with an injury, Davis came back last season with nine saves, a 2.72 ERA, and 63 strikeouts.

Finwood said there was talk in the fall of moving Davis into a starting role, but the decision was made to leave him in the bullpen because Davis was “wired to want the ball in a closing situation.”

“He’s got the mentality to be able to flush whatever happened yesterday down the drain when he takes his shower and come out and get ready to go the next day,” Finwood said.

As for the lineup, Finwood said there won’t be many changes.

Returning in the infield will be senior catcher Matt Rice, junior third baseman Casey Dykes and junior shortstop Logan Robbins.

Returning outfielders will be junior left fielder Jared Andreoli and junior center fielder Kes Carter.

Sophomore Ryan Huck, who mainly served as a designated hitter in 2010, will transition to first base to replace the departed Jake Wells.

Junior college transfers Ivan Hartle and Ryan Hutchison — both from Iowa Western Community College — will play second base and right field, respectively.

While at Iowa Western, Hartle was named the Easton NJCAA Division I Baseball Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named NJCAA Division I Tournament MVP.

“Ivan is a steady Eddie kind of a player,” Finwood said. “He’s probably not great at any one thing, but he’s good at just about everything.”

Hutchison earned all-conference and honorable mention All-America honors while at Iowa Western.

Finwood said he expects Hutchison to hit around the middle of the lineup.

Other players Finwood said he expects to contribute in 2011 include senior outfielders Chris Bullard and Matt Bracken, sophomore outfielder Matt Borgschulte and freshman infielder Scott Wilcox.

WKU, which finished 35-23 last season, opens 2011 at home against Bowling Green State on Feb. 18.

For more on WKU’s baseball media day, see next Tuesday’s Herald.