Folks, I’ve been swamped- research, and on top of that Organic Chemistry lecturer (new position!). But, much like the hibernating bear must awaken from his slumber, I too must force myself to make time to preview the Pack9! I will begin with last years disclaimer: It’s f*&#ing baseball folks, we’re going to lose games, 10 to 20. So don’t freak out- especially over mid-week losses that don’t mean diddly-squat. OK, that’s out of the way. Expectation this year: Omaha. That is the quality of the team we put on the field this year. I can only recall a few teams that put a #1 draft pick on the mound and a top 5 position player (ladies and gents, meet Carlos Rodon and Trea Turner) on the diamond. I also expect Brett Austin to have a breakout year, and give us three first round draft selections. This isn’t even the best part, but first we must break things down.
Who We Will Miss: Terran Senay, Brett Williams and Grant Clyde are departing starters who contributed greatly to last year’s run to Omaha. On the mound, we are forced to replace Ethan Ogburn who was a huge innings eater, and Chris Overman- closer extraordinaire. I know I have missed some names, and I truly apologize- every man on the roster is important, but time is my enemy.
Who’s Back: You know the names. The studs. The players who put butts in the seats. Rodon. Turner. Austin. Jernigan. And a host of other players who are ready to place there names on the prime-time list (looking at you, Ratledge!). We have top quality pitching, strong catching, good defense up the middle and folks, those are the ingredients for a winning team. Rodon and Turner could be teammates who make the final 3 for the Golden Spikes award- they are that talented. We have a bullpen that starts with Andrew Woeck and D.J. Thomas- a righty and lefty who know how to get outs and throw strikes. There are quite simply too many players to list and rather than try to name the roster, I will just say watch them all- we have talent.
The Newcomers: Temple baseball is entering it’s final season, and with that development they have had some transfers, most relevant to us the additions of Patrick and Eric Peterson to the roster. A righty and lefty, respectively, they add to our substantial pitching depth and could server roles in a starting or relieving capacity. We add Bubba (love the name) Riley as a JUCO bat and Preston Palmeiro is expected to immediately take Senay’s role at first base and as a premier bat. Garrett Suggs and Matt Vernon (OF, 3B) are two more freshmen I really like. Also, don’t overlook Ryan Williamson- tall leftys are a commodity folks.
The outlook: Omaha. First in the Atlantic. ACC Crown. Dare I say it, National Champions. These are not pipedreams, we have a fantastic shot at all of these goals. There is no team we cannot beat with Rodon on the hill and if Jernigan continues his progress from the summer and fall we may well have two aces. Brad Stone figures to be the third starter, although a Peterson may slip in. Simply, we have a lot of depth- especially at pitching- and that wins titles.
Go Pack9! This is the year we’ve been waiting for and I look forward to the ride with my fellow fans. As always, tip of the hat to Wufpack who I know will pick up my slack on a daily basis. Lets use the comments for more preview discussion- hope to see all my old friends back for another run (even those I occasionally b**#! at!).