2015 Baseball Outlook
The College of the Ozarks Bobcats are ready to take the field and open up their 2015 season. Head Coach Neale Richardson believes his team is prepared to “make things happen” this season. Richardson and Assistant Coach Steve Lael are in their first season with the Bobcats, following highly successful high school coaching careers. The Bobcats are poised to have a great season and have their sights set on a National Tournament berth.
The 2015 Bobcats are young, with only nine upperclassmen on their 25-man roster, but the coaching staff is confident they possess the tools to compete for a conference championship.
The ‘Cats defense, particularly in the outfield, is very strong. Senior center fielder Cody Pentecost will anchor the outfield, while also adding great left-handed hitting to the lineup. Last season, Pentecost posted a .327 average while stealing 9 bases and committing only 3 errors. Joining him in the outfield will be junior Cody Hull, along with sophomores Austin Schweiss and Jesse Fisher, and freshman Hunter Simmons. Each will bring their various talents to the field, including great speed, strong arms, and resilient defense.
Senior Landon Teal is a great defensive shortstop and provides leadership for the infield. Teal’s fielding percentage was a solid .943 last season, while turning nine double plays. First base will likely be shared between newcomers Kevin Martin and J.D. Payne, both of whom bring big bats to the plate. Scott Stephens, a true freshman, will look to anchor third base, and red-shirt freshmen Tyler Whiteis and J.D. Chadwell will fill out the infield with their ability to play multiple positions.
The pitching staff has seen a big turnover this past year, but is well balanced with left and right-handed hurlers. Senior Josh Neufeld, the most experienced of the staff, is a team leader on and off the field. Last season, Neufeld posted a 5-2 record while tallying 66 strikeouts in his 65.2 innings pitched. Sophomore Alex Stephens will again be a fierce competitor on the mound and give the ‘Cats a great chance to win. Garrett Woods, coming off surgery last season, has looked strong in the off-season, and Coach Richardson is looking for him to work his way to the top of the pitching rotation. How well Woods performs could be key to the Bobcats’ success this season. Three freshmen who could also see time on the mound this season and have a positive impact on the pitching staff are Wyatt Saltarelli, Colton Webber, and Christian Vonderheide. Junior Jason Myers will reprise his role as the cornerstone of the bullpen, and will be called upon regularly to keep the ‘Cats within striking distance and close out games. Also coming out of the pen will be junior right-hander Caleb Rowold and southpaw freshmen Brandon Pittman and Lake Keller.
Behind the plate will be senior Tyler Marion and sophomore Winston Rasmussen, both of whom have familiarity with the Bobcats’ pitching staff. Rasmussen features a strong arm behind the plate, while Marion has good speed. Backing them up will be Rowold, a hard-working team player who can also pitch and play infield, along with Georgi Georgiev, who plays the outfield and can contribute in a pinch-hitting role.
The Bobcats anticipate being a contender in the MCAC, as they can use their speed and contact hitting to play “small ball” but also feature power hitters capable of driving in runs. Martin, Payne, and S. Stephens are three such players that can provide tremendous power in the middle of the order, while Chadwell will add a power bat off the bench in key situations. Whiteis should be a tough out at the plate, and consistent on-base threats Pentecost, Schweiss and Hull will continually give the Bobcats an opportunity to drive in runs.
Bobcat fans can look forward to many competitive, exciting ballgames in the 2015 season from a group of young men who are excited to take the field in a Bobcat uniform and will represent College of the Ozarks well.