New faces litter the Bobcats' bullpen

Photo by Gerald Castillo

College Baseball

Texas State pitched 531 2/3 innings in 2016.

This season the Bobcats have to find a way to replace 481 of those innings.

Head coach Ty Harrington has seen what his new staff can do in practice, but he admitted during Wednesday’s media day that he doesn’t know what to expect come game day, especially from his freshmen whose feet will be held to the fire often this season.

“They’re not used to failing as much, then all of a sudden then have to answer a question in front of a lot of people on why they failed,” Harrington said. “Confidence becomes such a huge thing. That’s experience to me.”

Today Texas State opens its season against Purdue. Sophomore junior college transfer Connor Reich will get the opening day start with sophomore lefty Brandon Lewis and true freshman Nicholas Fraze getting the Saturday doubleheader starts. Sophomore Wes Engle rounds out the weekend with his first start Sunday. Of those four starters, Lewis has the most Division I experience with 35 innings pitched and six starts. He finished with a 3.60 ERA last season. Senior Quinn Atwood is ready step into a new role this year a well.

“I’ve seen the ups and the downs so, I’m just excited to bring my leadership and everything that I think I can offer to this team,” Atwood said. “You’re going to see a lot of new faces with us, but we’re going to take it head-on and you’re going to see a lot of exciting things coming this year from our pitching team.

Atwood’s role will be in relief this season, but said he’s ready to help his team in whatever way he can. The Katy native pitched 13 innings in 2016 and said the newer faces such as Reich, a Navarro College product, will be the ones to watch.

“They’re really going to help us win and so we’re going to have some freshmen that are really going to step up I think,” Atwood said. “Other than that, it’s a lot of guys that are going to step into the moment and take it head on.”

Aside from replacing Harrington’s senior trio of starters, Jeremy Hallonquist, Jonathan Hennigan and the program’s all-time strikeouts leader, Lucas Humpal, whoever emerges as the Bobcats’ closer will be something to watch as well. Pasquale Mazzaccoli finished his senior season as the single-season saves leader with 13. Atwood expects a freshman or sophomore to come into that spot.

Harrington expressed that the infield talent that returns will alleviate some pressure on the mound, but that overall it’s all one big experiment until the first pitch is thrown.

“Not once have they backed off, not once have they kind of sat down with their lip on the ground … What does that translate to? We won’t know until we start getting results on Friday,” Harrington said.

Purdue is coming off of a 10-44 season and Friday will be Mark Wasikowski’s first game as manager after being hired from Oregon.

“(The players are) tired of hearing about me or hearing from me and they’re ready to have a different colored jersey walk in the stadium and get an opportunity to compete,” Harrington said. “They will compete, I don’t know the result, but I do know they will compete.”

Despite winning just 10 games, Atwood knows that the  Boilermakers went through the Big Ten conference and had three players (Tanner Andrews, Nick Dalesandro and Jacson McGowan) named to the Preseason Big Ten Honors List. Tanner Andrews will be Purdue’s Friday starter.

“They’re going to be a good team, even if they were only 10 wins last year, you know they’re playing some of the best teams in the nation,” Atwood said. “We’ve just been keeping everybody on top of their feet, whoever we play it’s going to be a tough one.”

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