Cobras Baseball set for 2012 season
Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 11:02
The 2011 Cobras ended the season on a sour note, losing to Region 24 champ Heartland 12-4 and cutting their season short before reaching Nationals. Despite the disappointing end, the Cobras put together an outstanding 43-11 record and will look to build off that during the upcoming season.
They will begin 2012 ranked No. 8 in the polls and the expectations couldn't be any higher for this group.
"I expect us to win the national championship," sophomore shortstop Wes Minton said. "It's what we've worked hard for the last couple months."
Head Coach Matt Kennedy agrees, but also has other expectations for this group.
"We expect them to play harder than everybody we play," Kennedy said. "If you don't play harder than your opponent - win or lose, then you fail today."
As for overall accomplishment, the fourth year head coach has the same goal as his players. "Our expectation is to win a national title, and that's every year," he said.
A majority of starters will be returning from last year. These players all have a season under their belt and are primed and ready to compete with the best in the country. All-American Wes Minton returns at shortstop in addition to Landon Weitekamp at third base, Joey Migliaccio and Joel Stucker at second base.
First basemen Jeff Limbaugh is also back for his second season. Bobby Burns, Alec Ornelas and Nolan Wilson will battle for time behind the plate. There is great depth in the infield as freshmen Ryan Oltorik, Brennan Kwiatkowski, and Adam Casson can play first base. Freshman Alex Smith is available at second base or behind the plate, while LSU transfer Kevin Koziol is can cover at third or first.
The outfield is also loaded with talent. Sophomore Jake Pewitt returns from a solid freshman season. Kieston Greene, a Lake Land CC transfer looks to have a major impact in centerfield. Freshman Jack Wietlispach and sophomore Joe Trennepohl will battle for playing time in right field. Also available in the outfield are Isaac Miller, Tom Hooker and Brad Wheeler - all very good players that will get some innings this year.
The strength of this Cobras team however, will lie in its deep pitching staff and talented rotation of starters. Lefties Bo Weir, Zach Hall and Clay Manering are expected to get the most starts and set the tone for the staff.
"Those guys should carry the staff," Kennedy said. "We expect a lot from those three guys."
Sophomore Bo Weir understands these expectations. "I expect our pitchers to be as strong as we think," Weir said. "The rotation is definitely very strong, and we're going to come out looking to win every game."
The fourth and fifth starter spots are still up for grabs between sophomores Brian Krolikowski and Josh Witt. Freshman Brett Haan is also expected to receive some starts this year.
The starters are just the tip of the iceberg for this talented pitching staff.
The Cobras bullpen boasts some big arms this year and will be a force. Nebraska transfer Will Polley will get some innings, as will returning sophomores Mark Hode, Jake Rone and Brad Reedy.
There are plenty of great freshmen arms as well. Sam Thoele, Dylan Reid, Logan Shaftner, Jason Ziegler and likely-closer James Naile headline an outstanding back end of the pen.
"The bullpen is going to be the strength of this year's team," Kennedy said. "I think just the pitching staff in general is going to have to help carry us."
Yes, the 2012 Cobras have a lot of talent and depth, but they will only go as far as effort and desire take them. With that in mind, they've been using last year's disappointment as powerful motivation for the upcoming season.
"It's making us work a little bit harder, we know what we have to do," sophomore Wes Minton said. "As sophomores now, we're just pushing the freshman to get work done so it won't happen again."