With the temperature heading into the balmy high 40s to low 50s this weekend Lipscomb baseball coach Jeff Forehand is ready to see what his team can do outdoors.
Weather-permitting Forehand plans to open the first official day of practice Friday with an intra-squad scrimmage.
“We want to get the pitchers on the mound for 30 or 40 pitches,” Forehand said. “Since school has started they have been in individual workouts. We want them to see some live hitting.
“We will do some short, controlled scrimmages Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We are all excited to get out there. If it gets too cold we will take it inside, but on the first weekend I don’t think anyone is going to have any problem with the cold.”
Most preseason polls are placing the Bisons in the lower third of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Based on last season’s 19-36 overall record and 9-17 A-Sun worksheet Forehand isn’t shocked his team is not getting a lot of respect.
“That’s where everybody in our league sees us,” Forehand said. “We expected it. It is our job to do something about that.
“Coaches all say there is nothing to the polls. But there is something to the polls when you look at how other coaches and other teams view where we are. I think is an inspiration. I think it is a motivation to change the culture from last year.”
Much of the spotlight this season will be on left-handed pitcher Richie Goodenow who transferred to Lipscomb. Goodenow, used primarily as a reliever, started only one game for Vanderbilt in three seasons. Goodenow will be expected to anchor the weekend pitching rotation as a starter.
“We have to do better on the mound,” Forehand said. “Richie has had some success in the Southeastern Conference. We hope he will give us some quality innings.”
Forehand is also counting heavily on junior college transfer Connor Sinclair, a right-hander; and Davey Hackett, a right-hander who spent most of the fall rehabbing from an injury.
The bullpen is expected to be improved with several left-handers like senior Alex Ross, sophomore Chris Nunn, redshirt sophomore Benjamin Johnson and sophomore Blake Fonfara. Senior Chad Fromm, senior Mike Grace, junior Josh Cotham and redshirt sophomore Martin Grude, all right-handers, will add depth.
“Hopefully, we can go deeper into our bullpen,” Forehand said. “We have 15 pitchers. If we have 10 or 11 guys healthy each weekend we will be fine.”
In the infield redshirt sophomore Tennyson Dodd will play first base after missing last season due to an injury.
Josh Chism, who also pitches, could move to third base. He is a redshirt junior who missed last season due to an injury. Also getting a long look at third will be senior Zach Messer. Sophomore T.J. Hoelzer, senior Kyle Henry and freshman Aaron Spragg will fill in at shortstop and second base.
In the outfield there will be junior M.L. Williams and sophomores Ricky Coleman, Lee Wilson and Shawn Mehring. Diego Martinez, a transfer from Mesa Community College is also expected to spend some time in the outfield.
Forehand has depth at catcher with four players vying for playing time _ junior Logan Hostettler, sophomore Brett Teschner, senior Matt Brewer and redshirt sophomore Bennett Smith.
“All four of them do some good things,” Forehand said. “We want one guy but right now I can’t say that one guy has won the job.
“Hostettler has been back there for a lot of innings. Teschner swings the bat with a lot of pop. Brewer is a pretty good thrower and defender. And Smith is coming off a season where he had to sit out because of a transfer. Smith arguably had the best fall season of any of them.”
Last season the Bisons were strong offensively. Forehand is cautiously optimistic the team will be able to duplicate or better last season’s .310 batting average, 358 runs batted in, .461 slugging percentage, 59 home runs and 98 doubles.
“Last year was a pretty special year offensively,” Forehand said.
The season opener is at home Feb. 18 against Dayton.
Lipscomb is hosting the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament for the second year in a row.
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.