The St. Bonaventure University baseball team begins its 2016 schedule on Feb. 19 at Savannah State. In the weeks leading up to the first pitch of the 2016 season, GoBonnies.com will preview the team by position. In this edition, the Bonnies pitchers are featured.
A season ago, the Bonnies were extremely young on the mound – four freshmen accounted for nearly half of the entire staff's innings load for the season.
Predictably, the young Bonnies were up and down and took their lumps against Atlantic 10 hitters. The experience they gained through their on-the-job training has head coach Larry Sudbrook and his staff excited for their potential this spring, however.
"We had a number of guys who pitched a lot as freshmen," Sudbrook said, "and they took some poundings last year. But we would be very surprised if they aren't all better this year and improved as sophomores."
Second-year pitchers Brandon Schlimm and Aaron Phillips figure to feature prominently in the starting rotation while Ben Contento and Nate Grant will hold down important bullpen spots. The quartet of sophomores combined to throw 167 innings a year ago.
Leading the starters again, though, is a senior – right-hander Connor Grey. The Frewsburg native finished the year with a 3-6 record and 5.45 ERA in 12 starts in what was a Jekyll and Hyde type of season. As a junior, Grey started the year outstanding – through the first four Atlantic 10 weekends, he surrendered just four earned runs in 28 innings.
"He was one of the best pitchers in the Atlantic 10," Sudbrook said of Grey's start to 2015. He tossed a complete game allowing one run at George Washington and registered 12 strikeouts vs. UMass. Location troubles hurt Grey in the second half of the season, however, swelling his ERA following tough outings later in the year.
Schlimm, a 6-3 right-hander from Kersey, Pa., finished the year with a 2-6 mark and a 4.26 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 61.1 innings including a career-high nine punch outs against A-10 foe La Salle. The sophomore led the Olean Oilers to a New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL) championship over the summer with a 1.86 ERA.
"We look for Brandon and Connor to lead our rotation," Sudbrook said. "Brandon got better and better as the year went on and he had a tremendous summer."
The No. 3 spot in the rotation is up in the air as spring begins. Phillips, who also played outfield last year and could see starting time at second base this year, was pitching A-10 games by the end of last year. He finished the season with a 2-1 record and a 3.65 ERA in 44.1 innings of work. Phillips, who also starred for the nearby Oilers in the NYCBL, limited opposing hitters to a .242 batting average against him and he struck out 35 batters.
Senior Drew Teller logged 55.0 innings over 17 appearances including eight starts last year. The Mayfield Heights, Ohio native struck out 27 and finished the year with a 5.24 ERA. "He has a lot of sink to the ball and gets a ton of ground balls," Sudbrook said. "He's a strike-throwing machine and always gives you an opportunity to compete."
Also in the mix is senior righty Reid Van Woert. In his first year with the Bonnies after pitching at Onondaga Community College, Van Woert made five appearances out of the bullpen in 2015. During the summer, he earned all-league honors while pitching for the Aldie (Va.) Senators of the Valley Baseball League after posting a 2-0 record with a 1.80 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 45 innings.
Grant returns to the bullpen and will serve as a left-handed specialist. "He learned on the mound last year, which can be a very tough way to learn," Sudbrook said of Grant, who went 3-1 but had an 8.07 ERA in 17 appearances. The Corning native was the top option out of the 'pen for the NYCBL champion Oilers this summer with a 3.45 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.
Contento worked in 17 games a year ago, striking out 26 in 32.1 innings with a 4.45 ERA.
A pair of junior college transfers also join the bullpen – T.J. Baker is a 6'7" sidearmer who compiled a 1.08 ERA at Salt Lake Community College last year. Sudbrook sees Baker as a right-handed specialist called upon to get outs against middle of the order right-handed bats.
Also joining is Mark Giallanzo, a native of Oneonta who previously played at Herkimer CC.
Those arms will work to get the ball to closer Thad Johnson who has 12 saves the past two years. The senior from Frewsburg recorded a 1.44 ERA in 31.1 innings with 20 strikeouts last year and was selected as one of 10 finalists nationwide for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.
"He will top in the low 90s and he has a very good slider and good movement on his fastball," Sudbrook said. "He's been the closer for two years and he's very good at it."
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