March 5 - BETHANY, W.Va. – The Bethany Bison baseball team is hungry to start the 2012 campaign when they travel to Fort Pierce, Florida March 10th to start the season against conference opponent Geneva.
Head coach Rick Carver is entering his 22nd year as the Bison head coach and believes this team has developed a work ethic that can lead to success on the field. Coach Carver will be making the transition back into the third base coaching box, while former Bison center fielder Tyler Dillinger is in his first year as assistant coach. Back working with the team’s hitters is former Waynesburg head coach Duane Lanzy.
“During the fall season, we (the coaching staff) wanted to stress that we were going to have to play with energy, passion, and enthusiasm to be successful on the field,” said Carver, the 2010 PAC Coach of the Year. “Early season practice has been intense and the players are eager for the season to start.”
The key to success for the Bison will be the improved defense by the infield. “If we field up to our potential it will help lead to success as a team,” states Carver. “Making the routine plays is all that needs to be done by our infielders.”
The hot corner seems to be a three-way battle between freshmen Ryan Meier (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward), Daniel Weller Millersville, Md./Old Mill) and Kyle Wales (Wellsburg, W.Va./Brooke). The battle has been intense with all three bringing something different to the table each and every day for the Bison. Making up the other half of the left side of the infield is junior Brad Kubis (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell), who was the Bison starting third basemen a year ago. A year ago, Kubis was voted to First Team All-PAC while batting .346 with one home run and 25 RBI. Kubis has had success in each of first two years for the Bison and the team will rely on more of the same from him. Solid defensive back-ups will be freshman Jordan Kennedy (Nemacolin, Pa./Carmichaels) and sophomore Juls Leto (McKees Rocks, Pa./OLSH).
The right side of the infield will have returners at both positions. Senior Nate Tieman (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Darby) has the opening day nod at first base. Tieman is a career .312 hitter with an on-base percentage of .421 and also posting a career .987 fielding percentage. Pushing Tieman are fellow senior Anthony Packer (River Vale, N.J./Pascack Valley Regional), junior Matt Paonessa (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) and junior Chuck Ziants (Moundsville, W.Va./John Marshall). Packer is also a career .312 hitter and is just 18 hits shy of 100 for his career. Paonessa provides a bat with a lot of pop off the bench.
Second base seems to be up for grabs between senior Alex Evans (Washington, Pa.) and Leto, due to injuries to sophomore Dominic Controguerra (Richmond, Ohio/Edison) and freshman Josh Dow (Groton, Conn./Griswold). Evans last year hit a career best .325 while playing the outfield and designated hitter position and is making the transition to second base. Promising freshman Joel West (Washington, Pa.) is waiting in the wings.
Behind the plate, Second Team All-PAC selection and senior TJ Zarewicz (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills) returns. Zarewicz a year ago led the Bison in batting average (.383), RBI (28), doubles (eight) and home runs (three). Spelling Zarewicz will be freshman Lucas Flaus (Pittsburgh, Pa./Montour), junior David Pivik (Pittsburgh, Pa./Plum), sophomore Tanner Werkmann (Germantown, Md./Poolesville) and senior David Yuna (Bridgeville, Pa./South Fayette).
The designated hitter will be manned by Ziants, Paonessa, Pivik, Wales or Packer. Ziants saw significant time last year at the DH position. Paonessa and Pivik were the team’s leading pinch-hitters a season ago.
“Limiting our mistakes and errors on the infield are steps to winning games this year and I believe the depth and competition on the infield will help us be successful,” says Carver.
The outfield will see some old and new faces. “On paper it looks like we lost a lot in our outfield, but as a coaching staff we feel we were able to reload and have a lot of talent,” says Carver.
Sophomore Dylan Wassel (Elizabeth, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) will be the opening day starter in left field. As a freshman, Wassel made 22 starts for BC and hit .333 with 18 RBI. Against left-handed pitching Evans could see some time in left field as well. Freshman Cory Myers (Verona, Pa./Plum) could also see time in left field.
Replacing center fielder Tyler Dillinger is a tall task for the Bison, but freshman speedster Ethan Tobin (Bethesda, Ohio/Union Local) and sophomore Zac Edmiston (California, Pa.) could provide a platoon to help. Freshman Nigel Faucett (Columbus, Ohio/Whitehall-Yearling) is in the mix as well at the position.
Freshman Derek Miller (Rayland, Ohio/Linsly) will take over in right field and has the talent to be one of the better outfielders in the Carver era. Packer, who saw a lot of time in right field a year ago, returns and will provide great depth at the position. “This group of players has the talent to be as good as I have had in my coaching career,” Carver says of this year’s outfielders.
The pitching staff will see a lot of fresh faces as many of last year’s arms graduated. “The biggest hurdle we have as a pitching staff is to focus on what we have and not what we don’t have,” says Carver. Junior Zak Kozlowski (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery last summer.
The starting rotation looks to have one junior and three freshmen. Ryan Styche (Buena Vista, Pa./Elizabeth Forward) is the junior who is making the transition from reliever to starter and has vastly improved. Rounding out the rest of the conference starters are freshmen Tyler Kurtz (Jerusalem, Ohio/Barnesville) and Meier. “These are three of the most competitive kids I have met in my life, and even though are unproven, I have a lot of confidence in them because of their drive and ambition,” says Carver. Waiting in the wings as another starter with a lively arm is freshman William Clarkson (Huntingdon, Pa.).
Bridging to the back-end of the bullpen will be freshmen Harrison Rightmyer (Wyomissing, Pa./Wilson) and Dow, sophomores Edmiston and Jason Swartzmiller (Weirton, W.Va./Weir), junior Trent Cornwell (Grove City, Ohio) and senior Lamar Fisher (Bronx, N.Y./Mount Vernon). The set-up man will be Miller and returning as the closer is Kubis. He led the nation in saves two years ago and is the Bison career leader in saves with 17.
“Passion and energy will be the key to Bison baseball in 2012. I am very optimistic about our offense because of the depth we have at all positions,” says Carver. The Bison will be looking to get back into postseason play after reaching the ECAC South Tournament semifinals in 2010.
By: Nate Tieman Sports Information Student Assistant