Shocker baseball starts its annual seven-game series on Saturday (2 p.m.).
- At first glance, Black (coach by Jim Thomas) appears to get a big edge with pitchers A.J. Ladwig and Kris Gardner, both returning weekend starters, and Cale Elam, moving from closer to starter. That trio is the best bet, at this point, to be the weekend rotation. However, Thomas won’t have full use of their arms. Gardner will be limited to two innings an outing; Ladwig three or four. Elam will throw four or five. He got through five innings on 51 pitches in a recent scrimmage, so he may push that limit if he is mowing batters down. On the Gold (coached by Brandon Hall), Tobin Mateychick, junior transfer Brandon Peterson and freshman Austin Sanders will likely get the starts. Peterson relieved in junior college and coaches want to evaluate him as a starter.
- Do the Shockers possess a true Friday night starter who can match zeroes with Indiana State’s Sean Manea, named the Cape Cod League’s Most Outstanding Prospect, or Missouri State’s Nick Petree, last season’s National Player of the Year according to Collegiate Baseball? We won’t know until the spring, but these seven games could provide some clues.
- Gold gets an edge in the bullpen with Albert Minnis and Foster Vielock. Black, however, balances that with senior T.J. McGreevy and lefty Aaron LaBrie. LaBrie might be the most improved pitcher this fall and coaches are excited about his progress. Black also has Drew Palmer, a transfer from Cowley who looked sharp in two recent scrimmages.
- Casey Gillaspie isn’t likely to play a lot of right field in the scrimmages because of the roster limitations. He has been out there during practices and it is an option coaches are experimenting with. If Gillaspie can handle it, Johnny Coy can play first and that opens the DH spot for another bat. Sean Moore, a junior transfer, is a possibility. So is Garrett Bayliff, if he is healthy in the spring. DH might be ideal for Bayliff as a way to keep him healthy and reduce the stress on his bad ankle.
- Bayliff and shortstop Cody Bobbit, another junior transfer, are injured and won’t play in the fall. Bobbit is recovering from labrum surgery.
- The left side of the infield will be interesting to watch. SS/3B Erik Harbutz is back. So is Josh Halbert, who played some 3B a year ago. Coaches expect Bobbit to be a factor in the spring. Oklahoma transfer Chase Simpson plays 3B and will likely sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. WSU may look into appealing to the NCAA for a waiver for Simpson, who can also play 1B and 2B. Simpson started 12 games for OU and hit .250 last season. He hit .284 for Mankato (Minn.) in the Northwoods League this summer. C Tyler Baker is also an option at 3B. The end result could be several options and strong competition for playing time on the infield.
- I’m intrigued by center field, where the Shockers no longer enjoy the luxury of playing Kevin Hall. Taylor Doggett replaced Hall at times in center last spring. Mikel Mucha may be WSU’s best all-around defender in the outfield. Then there’s freshman Daniel Kihle, who is playing well this fall. Their job may get bigger if Gillaspie plays right field. I’ve covered WSU baseball since 2006 and the opening-day CF are: Kenny Waddell (2006), Blake Hurlbutt (07), Andy Dirks (08) and Hall (09-12). The player who starts in 2013 will be join a long list of excellent defenders.
- P Zach Beringer, who injured his knee and back in a car wreck in November, may throw an inning during the final game. Beringer continues to rehab and is throwing bullpens. He has not pitched in any of the 11 scrimmages this fall.
Saturday, 2 p.m. Tuesday, 3 p.m. Oct. 5, 3 p.m. Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 9, 3 p.m. Oct. 11, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13, 2:30 p.m.
Black: C Tyler Baker, 1B Johnny Coy, 2B Tanner Dearman, INF Dayne Parker, INF Josh Halbert, OF Conner Knight, INF Xavier Lewis, OF Mikel Mucha, OF Joe Haddox, OF Tyler Melton, C Bob Arens, P Cale Elam, P A.J. Ladwig, P Drew Palmer, P Garrett Brummett, P T.J. McGreevy, P Aaron LaBrie, P Kris Gardner
Gold: C Parker Zimmerman, 1B Casey Gillaspie, INF Sean Moore, INF Tanner Kirk, SS/3B Erik Harbutz, INF Chase Simpson, OF Taylor Doggett, OF Micah Green, OF Daniel Kihle, C Casey Lassley, P Brandon Peterson, P Tobin Mateychick, P Kyle Vail, P Austin Sanders, P Foster Vielock, P Albert Minnis, P Zach Beringer