For manager Jeff Lounsbury of the Brock Badgers baseball program, every year is a fresh start for his team. Last year the Badgers took home the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) Jason Guindon Trophy for the second time in five seasons – a total of four times since 2002. As this year begins, Lounsbury knows other teams have their eye on the Badgers.
Come September 12, the Badgers pursuit to win back to back championships begins as they open play on the road versus York University. Their first two weekends will be played away from St. Catharines for a total of eight games on the road.
“Our season is fast and furious and one game can cost you a playoff spot, so teams have to get their wins when they can,” said Coach Lounsbury.
Last season Brock finished 17-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of Western University. The Badgers led the league with a .323 team batting average and a 2.44 earned run average last season. They were a perfect 10-0 in one run games (including exhibition) before falling to St. Clair College in the OUA/OCAA Championship.
Lounsbury hopes his team can continue to cut down on the walks they allow per game, and that his hitters can work to improve their hitting by using all fields and working deep into counts.
“We have another great recruiting class coming in, and I feel our returning players have been improving over the summer,” said Lounsbury.
The Badgers added U.S transfer Dennon Koziol, former Junior National Team Canada player Robert Byckowski and Blake Stepian. Lounsbury also hopes for big seasons from pitchers Jeff Baggaley and Ryan Beckett with the departure of graduates Justin Ayles and Johnny Hutton.
Last season in six games, Baggaley pitched six strong innings without allowing a run. Baggaley also struck out three batters, only walking two and giving up just one hit. Beckett in five games pitched 10 innings. He gave up eight runs, striking out five and walking four batters.
Badgers will also be looking for another big season from Justin Gideon – last season’s Most Valuable Hitter in the OUA. Gideon hit .469 on the year (second best in the league), hit two home runs and batted in 16 runs. He also led the league with 30 hits, five triples, 52 total bases and 18 stolen bases.
“Justin had a great year, but he also works extremely hard and enjoys being at the park,” Lounsbury explained about his outfielder. “We need a good year from Justin for us to be successful.”
Badgers Ricky Ferri and Phil Steer finished second and third in OUA stolen bases behind Gideon. They had 16 and 15 bases stolen, respectively. As a team they stole a total of 69 bases.
Gideon, Ayles, Steer and pitcher Phil Owen were named to the OUA First Team in 2014. While second baseman Dan Nicoletta was named to the OUA Second Team. All four but Ayles will be returning for the Badgers in 2015.
Steer the team’s shortstop and Nicoletta the second baseman have been the head of the team’s defence as they combined for seven double plays up the middle. The two have been big helps playing behind Brock pitchers, saving bases hits. Steer batted .348 as the team’s leadoff hitter and had a .436 on-base percentage. Nicoletta hit .339 on the year with a .403 on-base percentage.
Brock’s home opener is scheduled for September 26 versus Laurier University. However, the team will begin exhibition play September 4 versus the same team that ended their season last year with a loss in St. Clair College. The Badgers season will really come down to their play to begin the season. They’ve opened the last two seasons with wins on the road and that’ll be needed again.
Lounsbury finished off saying, “This year we are (defending) OUA Champs, thus I am sure teams will be wanting to knock us down a peg.”