Falcon Baseball Opens 2005 Season at Southern Utah
Dates: Feb. 4-5 - doubleheaders both beginning at Noon MST.
Opponent: Southern Utah
Site: T-Bird Park - Cedar City, Utah
Coverage: There will be no livestats or radio available.
Probable Starters: (AF-SUU)
Game 1: Clayton Couch (3-7, 7.79) vs. Justin Abbott (7-5, 5.19)
Game 2: Paul Vignola (1-11, 11.87) vs. Dusty Nielsen (2-3, 5.14)
Game 3: Paul Pratt (2-1, 7.78) vs. Kasey Hubbard (1st career app.)
Game 4: Travis Fugler (0-2, 16.03) vs. Tyson Olson (played OF at Utah in '04)
Falcons Open 2005 Season at Southern Utah
Air Force opens the 2005 college baseball season with a pair of noon doubleheaders at Southern Utah, Fri.-Sat., Feb. 4-5 at Thunderbird Park in Cedar City, Utah. The Falcons are 27-21 all-time in season openers. Their last season-opening win was in 2001, a 21-3 drubbing of Hastings College.
The Falcons return 18 letterwinners, including seven of the nine position starters. The starters not returning are juniors Josh Wolfram, who is still at the Academy but has decided not to play due to injuries suffered in 2004 and Jason Brown, who has decided to concentrate fully on wide receiver duties for the football team. The Falcons return eight pitchers from last year, including juniors Clayton Couch and Paul Vignola and sophomore Mitch Brown, who combined to start 33 of the Falcons' 55 games. Also returning from two-year religious missions are juniors Price Paramore and Paul Pratt and his cousin, sophomore Michael Garrison. Pratt was the team closer in 2002, leading the team with four saves and Paramore batted .292 with 10 doubles in 48 games in 2002.
Head Coach Mike Hutcheon
Mike Hutcheon begins his second year as the head coach of the Falcons. Prior to his stint at the Academy, Hutcheon spent the last four years at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Ind. and compiled a record of 130-78 during his tenure there. In 2002, Hutcheon was named the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Coach of the year after leading Bethel to the 2002 NCCAA national title. Prior to his stay at Bethel, Hutcheon coached at Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss., for five seasons where he went 109-62. Through ten seasons as a head coach, Hutcheon has compiled a 245-189 record.
Young and inexperienced, the Falcons stumbled to a 6-49 season in 2004, finishing sixth in the Mountain West Conference with an 0-28 conference mark. The Falcons batted .285 as a team, led by freshman third baseman Karl Bolt's .349 average. The Air Force pitching staff had a steep 12.16 earned run average and were led by sophomore right-hander Clayton Couch, who led the team with a 3-7 record, 7.79 ERA and 47 K's in 71.2 innings pitched. Couch was named to the Mountain West Conference All-Tournament team for his complete game win over BYU.
Falcons In Season-Openers
Air Force is 27-21 all-time in season openers... The Falcons are 9-5 in their last 14 season openers, but have lost the last three...In 2004, AFA lost 20-7 at New Mexico State in its season opener...This is the first time Air Force opens the season against Southern Utah.
Scouting Southern Utah
The Thunderbirds of Southern Utah University will also be making its season-debut on Friday. The Thunderbirds, who went 19-30 a season ago, are led by first-year coach David Eldredge, a former player and then assistant coach at BYU. A season ago, SUU batted .309 as team. The top returning hitter is senior shortstop Jason Ruiz, who batted .398 with 14 doubles and 51 runs scored. The Thunderbirds had a team pitching earned run average of 7.07 in 2004. SUU's top returning pitcher is senior righty Justin Abbott, who was 7-5 a season ago with a 5.19 ERA and 64 K's in 93.2 innings pitched.
AFA-SUU Series History
Air Force and Southern Utah have played each other 12 times with the series split at six apiece...AFA and SUU last met in 2004, where the Falcons won both games at Falcon Field...The two teams first played each other 20 years ago on March 31, 1984, a 16-7 Thunderbird win.
AFA-SUU Connections & Notes
Falcon junior Paul Vignola (Green Valley HS) and T-Bird's Kameron Francom (Bonanza HS), Jason Ruiz (Cimarron Memorial HS) and Greg Marshall (Bishop Gorman HS) all hail from Las Vegas, Nev...Air Force's Billy Adams (Wadsworth) and SUU's Charlie Hahl (Cincinnati) both hail from Ohio...Paul Pratt is the lone Falcon from Utah, hailing from Tooele...There are no T-Birds from Colorado.
The Series At-A-Glance
Overall: tied, 6-6
Current Streak: Air Force, 3 games
First Meeting: 3/31/84 (SUU, 16-7)
Last Meeting: 2/15/04 (AFA, 15-12)
Most AFA runs: 15 on 2/15/04 (15-12)
Most SUU runs: 16 on 3/31/84 (22-19)
Biggest win by AFA: 7 on 2/15/03 (9-2)
Biggest win by SUU: 11 on 3/26/02 (14-3)
Air Force-SUU: The Last Meeting
Air Force swept Southern Utah in two games last year at Falcon Field. In the first game, AFA rallied from a 4-3 deficit to score six unanswered runs and eventually won 9-5. Clayton Couch picked up his first win of the season in the start. In the second game, the Falcons rallied from a 5-0 hole by scoring 15 runs in the 4th-through-sixth innings, including an eight-run fifth, to win 15-12.
The Last Time Out
Air Force went 1-2 at the 2004 Mountain West Conference Championships at Earl E. Wilson Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. The Falcons surrendered eight runs in the first inning to lose 13-9 to UNLV in the opening round game. AFA rallied in its night game by defeating BYU 5-3, to snap a 34 game-losing swing. The Falcons gave up eight runs in the first inning again in a season-ending 23-2 loss to New Mexico the following day, where 11 conference tourney records were broken.
Air Force batted .285 as a team in 2004...The Falcons hit 26 home runs as a team, the fewest total since hitting 26 1984...The Falcons were second in the conference with 76 stolen bases...Karl Bolt was second among freshmen in the MWC with a .349 average.
The Falcons set a few records they did not want to pitching-wise in 2004 as they set high's in several categories, including earned-run average (12.16), hits allowed (809), home runs allowed (107) and opponents batting average (.396)...Clayton Couch was the lone Falcon to win more than one game with three wins...Mitch Brown and Jeff Tetrault led the Falcons with 20 pitching appearances each.
In 2004, the Falcons had a .938 fielding percentage...Air Force had eight errorless games as season ago, including three consecutive perfect-fielding games vs. Utah from May 7-8...The Falcons improved upon their fielding in conference play, with a .943 percentage in MWC games.
Probable Starters for Southern Utah Series
1B Karl Bolt (6-2, 215, R/R, So) Led team with .349 average and 60 base hits
2B Geno Salazar (5-10, 175, R/R, So) Started 37 games as a freshman, 22 at second
SS Nathan DeRohan (6-1, 180, R/R, Sr) Lone Falcon to play and start all 55 games in 2004
3B Troy Jeffers (6-0, 185, R/R, Fr) Sophomore in eligibility batted .395 last year at JC
LF Brent Tittle (6-2, 235, R/R, Sr) Led team with .365 average in MWC games
CF Matt Musser (6-0, 190, R/R, Jr) Swiped nine bases in 21 games played in '04
RF Matt Ghigna (6-0, 190, L/R, Fr) All-district and All-County at The Woodlands (TX) HS
C Jon Polston (5-11, 205, R/R, So) Started a team-leading 35 games at catcher as a frosh
DH Dale Kasel (6-3, 215, R/R, Sr) Looking to break out in senior year
SP Clayton Couch (6-2, 175, R/R, Jr) Led team with 3 wins in '04; MWC All-Tourney selection
SP Paul Vignola (6-5, 235, R/R, Jr) Led team with 15 starts as a sophomore
SP Paul Pratt (6-0, 200, R/R. Jr) Returns to team after two-year religious mission
SP Travis Fugler (6-0, 195, L/R, Sr.) Converted pitcher making second-career start
CL Mitch Brown (5-11, 190, R/R, So.) Led team with 2 saves in 04
Lets Play Two
The Falcon are slated to play four straight doubleheaders to start the season. For the season, AFA has seven scheduled double-dips. In 2004, Air Force took part in 12 doubleheaders due to inclement weather.
Three Falcons return from serving two-year religious missions. Junior infielder/pitcher Price Paramore returns from a mission to Siberia, Russia. Junior righty Paul Pratt spent two years in Paraguay. Pratt's cousin, sophomore lefty Mike Garrison returns from two years spent in Thailand.
The Falcons return to action Tuesday, Feb. 8, hosting a doubleheader against Div. I Independent Northern Colorado beginning noon, at Falcon Field. Air Force will then take on York College (Neb.) for a Saturday doubleheader on Feb. 12 at Falcon Field beginning at noon.
Falcons To Play In 2005 Service Academies Spring Classic
For the 14th consecutive season, Air Force returns to the annual Service Academies Springs Classic, held Feb. 25-27 at USA Stadium, the former home site for USA Baseball in Millington, Tenn. The Falcons have played 45 games in the classic, the most of any team and have a record of 23-22. Last year, the Falcons went 2-1 at the Classic, losing 11-1 to Kentucky before rebounding to defeat Navy, 7-0, and Murray State, 11-2. This year, the Falcons take on Memphis, Navy and Indiana State.