Baseball Faces VMI in Tampa, Fla.
Falcons coming off three-game sweep over Iowa State
The Games: Air Force (5-0) travels to Tampa, Fla., for a four-game non-conference series against the Virginia Military Institute, Feb. 9-11, at the New York Yankees' spring training complex.
Fri. Feb. 9 2 p.m. VMI Tampa, Fla. Sat. Feb. 10 Noon VMI (DH) Tampa, Fla. Sun. Feb. 11 1 p.m. VMI Tampa, Fla.
Road Warriors: Air Force plays 11 straight road games over the next three weekends. After the VMI series in Tampa, the Falcons travel to Wichita State for three games in Kansas and then to Millington, Tenn., for the annual Service Academies Spring Classic, Feb. 23-25.
Offense and Pitching Solid -- Defense Continues to Struggle: In the first five games this season, the Falcon offense and pitching were solid, but the defense struggled. Air Force committed 19 errors in the five games and fielded just .897. As a team, the Falcons hit .361 with a .594 team slugging percentage. On the mound, the pitching staff posted a 3.23 ERA and has 42 strikeouts with just nine walks. Because of the defensive miscues, the staff has allowed nine unearned runs.
Best Start Since '80: Air Force's 5-0 start equals the best in school history. The 1980 team started 5-0 en route to a 27-9-1 record. No Falcon team has ever started a season 6-0.
Rare Division I Sweep: The Falcons' three-game sweep over Iowa State was the team's first sweep of a Division I school since winning three straight at Utah in 1995. Air Force's last sweep over a Division I team at Falcon Field was against Northern Iowa in March of 1993.
Quick Recovery For Thiessen: Preseason All-American Mike Thiessen returned to the lineup against Iowa State after missing two games vs. Hastings College due to a separated shoulder suffered during football season. Thiessen was expected to miss two to five weeks for his recovery. He did not disappoint the Falcon faithful, going 3-for-10 from the plate and extending his hitting streak to 13 games stretching back to last season. Thiessen led the conference with a .414 batting average last year, when he was was a first-team all-conference and all-MWC Tournament choice.
Preseason All-American: Thiessen, who became the sixth player in AFA history to earn All-American honors (third-team baseball writers in 2000), was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America preseason All-American second team for 2001.
Scouting the Opponent: Virginia Military Institute (from Lexington, Va.) opens their season against Air Force. The Keydets were 19-30 overall last season and 11-19 for ninth place in the Southern Conference. VMI is under the leadership of first-year head coach Tom Slater. The team returns 10 of the 20 lettermen from last season. First baseman Chris Cantanzaro is the top returning hitter. The left-handed hitter batted .392 with six home runs and 46 RBI last season. Relief pitcher John Sloan, who posted a 6.75 ERA in 19 appearances is the top returning hurler. The 6-foot-7 left-hander had 30 strikeouts with 33 walks.
Series Records: Air Force and VMI have played six times with the Keydets holding a 4-2 advantage in the series. The teams split two games at a neutral site in 1997. Last season, VMI won three of four from the Falcons in Tampa, Fla. VMI won by scores of 14-7, 19-8 and 10-9 in the series finale. AFA won the second game of the series, 7-2, behind the complete game pitching of Erik Fisher. Shortstop Brian LaBasco hit a home run and drove in five runs in the game.
About the Conference: Air Force embarks on its second season in the Mountain West Conference. The Falcons face Brigham Young, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Utah. The teams play a three-game series at each site for 30 conference games. Colorado State and Wyoming do not have baseball programs. New Mexico won the inaugural regular season championship last season while SDSU won the tournament championship. AFA placed sixth in the regular season and second in the tournament.
New Triples Record: Air Force set a new school record with six triples in the game against Hastings College, Jan. 26. Gerremy Goldsberry and Derck Kasel each had two while Bowie Frost and Nelson Prouty each had one. The six triples broke the record of five set against Colorado College in 1993. The Falcons had only five triples as a team all of last season.
Consecutive .400 Seasons: With a .414 batting average last season, Mike Thiessen became the first Falcon in 14 years and just the sixth in school history to have consecutive .400 seasons (among players averaging three or more at-bats per game). Thiessen led the conference in batting in 1999 and 2000. Thiessen is attempting to be the first player in the 44 years of Falcon baseball to have three straight .400 or better seasons. He would be the second player to have three .400 seasons in their career. Below is a list of the Falcons who had consecutive .400 seasons.
Mike Thiessen 1999 (.424) 2000 (.414) 2001 (.300 currently) Eric Pharris 1983 (.430) 1985 (.434) 1986 (.476) John Johnson 1981 (.407) 1982 (.491) Jeff Brown 1974 (.400) 1975 (.419) Dick Smithwick 1969 (.442) 1970 (.441) Bruce Huneke 1963 (.438) 1964 (.402)
Hot Hurlers: Pitching coach Bobby Applegate assembled one of the best staffs in school history last season. That's the good news. The best news is they are all back this season. Applegate's staff produced some phenomenal numbers last season. The team finished the season with a 6.87 team ERA with eight complete games. The team ERA was the best since the Falcons posted a 6.15 team ERA in 1993. The staff had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.8 -to- 1 with 337 K's and only 183 walks in 461 innings. The staff shattered the school record with 337 strikeouts last season. In five games this season, the staff has a 3.23 team ERA with 42 strikeouts and just nine walks.
Fisher Coming Off of Banner Season: Erik Fisher completed one of the best seasons recently by a Falcon pitcher. The right-hander from Riverside, Calif., finished the year with a 5.33 ERA, the best by a starter since Jon Mosier posted a 5.31 ERA in 1989. Fisher shattered the school record for innings pitched in a season. His 104.2 innings broke the previous record of 98 set by Pete Bracci in 1964. Fisher's 85 strikeouts tied as the third most in school history and the most since Bob Wright had 85 in 1982. He is off to another good start this season with a 1-0 record and a 1.50 ERA. He defeated Hastings College in the season opener and pitched seven strong innings in the 6-4 win over Iowa State. In 12 innings this year, Fisher has recorded 15 strikeouts and allowed only one walk.
The Coach: Reed Peters (UNLV, 1992) is in his second season as the Falcons' head coach and his third season overall with Air Force. He came to the Academy as an assistant coach in the fall of 1998. His career and Air Force record is 28-34. His first career victory came against Iowa State, Feb. 6, 2000. Peters' coaching career began at his alma mater, UNLV, where he was an assistant coach from 1990-94. The Denver native was the head coach at Colby Community College (Kansas) from 1995-98. He led the Trojans to a 123-80 record for a .600 winning percentage. He led the team to a regional championship and two regional runner-ups. After serving as the acting head coach during the season, Peters was named the head coach May 17, 2000.
Thiessen's Assault of the Record Book: Last season, Mike Thiessen broke the school records for hitting streak (33), doubles in a season (28), doubles in a career (59), hits in a season (91) and at-bats in a season (220). Some of the records were absolutely shattered. The previous records were: hitting streak (29 in 1980), doubles in a season (21 in 1990), doubles in a career (56 in 1991), hits (86 in 1988) and at-bats (215 in 1998). Thiessen is within reach of several Falcon career records. His career batting average of .383 (236-616) is the third best ever by a player with more than 500 at-bats. The list is below:
Career Stats Current Rank Needs for Record School Record 61 doubles 1st - -- 196 runs 2nd 18 213, Mike Kazlausky, 1991 107 walks 2nd 10 116, Mike Kazlausky, 1991 236 hits 2nd 8 243, Vern Mullis, 1994 388 total bases 4th 67 454, Vern Mullis, 1994 616 at bats 3rd 31 646, Vern Mullis, 1994 33 stolen bases 7th 45 77, Jim Best, 1980 25 home runs 12th 22 46, Steve Saleck, 1980
Double Trouble: Four Falcon baseball players are two-sport athletes at the Academy. Mike Thiessen and Brian LaBasco also play football while Brian Gornick plays hockey and Josh Wallace plays basketball. Thiessen is the most recognizable name on the list. The Falcons' starting centerfielder was also the starting quarterback for the football team this past fall. He was named the MWC co-offensive player of the year and was also named the offensive MVP in the Silicon Valley Classic bowl game. The senior from Modesto, Calif., broke school records for passing yards and touchdowns in the option era. He also led the team in rushing and rushing touchdowns. LaBasco was a wide receiver on the Falcon football team. The sophomore from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was second on the team in receptions and third in yards. He led the Falcons in receiving yards at the bowl game. Gornick, who is a reserve outfielder with a lot of power at the plate, is one of the Air Force's top scorers on the ice. He was a preseason all-conference selection as a forward. A draft pick of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1999, the St. Paul, Minn., native was a second-team all-conference choice last season. Wallace is a reserve center on the Falcon basketball team and is expected to pitch for the baseball team later in the season. The 6-foot-9 Wallace opened eyes during fall practice with a live fastball. Wallace and Gornick will not join the baseball team until mid-March.
Last Week: Air Force swept a three-game series from Iowa State at Falcon Field. The Falcons captured 4-2 and 6-4 wins in a doubleheader on Saturday, then claimed a 12-8 decision on Sunday. Prior to this season, AFA had never beaten the Cyclones twice in one season.
Saturday vs. Iowa State (Game 1): Junior pitcher Matt Kaercher dominated in leading the Falcons to a 4-2 win. He pitched a complete game in the seven-inning contest and allowed just two runs, both unearned, on three hits with nine strikeouts and just one walk. ISU scored a run off of a Falcon error in the top of the first, but the Falcons came back with two runs in the bottom of the first. Brian LaBasco and Adam Howes both singled and scored in the inning. Kaercher retired 12 straight batters over the next four innings and the Falcons built a 4-1 lead. Senior Gerremy Goldsberry drove in fellow senior Mike Thiessen and Howes with a single in the bottom of the fifth. ISU made the game interesting in the top of the seventh as Michael Wilcox reached on an infield single and then scored on a Falcon error. The Cyclones had runners on second and third with the potential go-ahead run at the plate when John Zeller grounded out to end the game.
Saturday vs. Iowa State (Game 2): Goldsberry's two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning of the second game lifted the Falcons to a 6-4 victory. Iowa State came from behind to tie the score at 4-4 in the top of the eighth on Rob Conway's solo home run to left field. In the bottom of the eighth, Adam Howes reached base on an error by the ISU shortstop. With two outs, the left-handed hitting Goldsberry hit a 2-1 pitch from left-handed reliever Ben McKay over the fence in left field for a 6-4 Falcon lead. Falcon reliever Kiwedin Cornell earned his first save of the season as he set down the Cyclones in order in the top of the ninth with two strikeouts and a ground out. AFA starter Erik Fisher pitched well for seven innings but did not get a decision. He gave up just three runs, two earned, on six hits with eight strikeouts and left the game with the lead. Sophomore Johnny Koegel came in and gave up the home run to Conway, the first batter he faced, to tie the game. Koegel received the win as he pitched one inning and gave up one run.
Sunday vs. Iowa State: Air Force scored nine runs in the first three innings then held on for a 12-8 win over the Cyclones. Air Force opened the game with two runs in the bottom of the first on Goldsberry's two-run homer to center field. The home run was the third consecutive home run in three at-bats for the senior from Omaha, Neb. He homered in his final two at-bats of Saturday's second game. Howes drilled a two-run double to right center field for a 4-0 AFA lead in the second inning. Air Force scored five runs in the bottom of the third. Goldsberry and Price Paramore had RBI doubles while Nelson Prouty and LaBasco had RBI singles. The Falcons built a 9-0 lead while starting pitcher Michael Tufte kept the Cyclones in check. He gave up just two hits and had two strikeouts in three shutout innings. ISU scored two runs on a double and two singles in the top of the fourth. The Falcon defense then fell apart, committing four errors in three innings as ISU cut the Falcon lead to 9-5 in the fifth. Triples by Spencer Allen and Rob Conway and a double by John Zeller led to three Cyclone runs in the fifth. Air Force scored three in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI triple by Howes and RBI singles by Goldsberry and LaBasco to make the score 12-5. ISU took advantage of two more Falcon errors in the top of the seventh to make the score 12-8. The Cyclones, 0-3 overall this season, had runners on first and third with no outs, but AFA reliever David Diehl forced ISU to ground into a double play on his first pitch and got out of the inning unscathed. He retired eight of the 10 batters he faced and earned his first save of the season. Goldsberry hit .636 against ISU, going 7-for-11 with five runs scored, nine RBI, three home runs, a double and a stolen base. He is hitting .647 in five games this season. Goldsberry extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Thiessen, who holds the school record with a 33-game hitting streak that ended early last season, extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
On Deck: Following the VMI series, Air Force travels to Wichita State for the team's most difficult series of the season. Air Force will face 29th-ranked Wichita State (Collegiate Baseball). The Falcons and Shockers play Feb. 17-18, in Wichita, Kansas.
Player NotesErik Fisher -- C2C (Jr.), P, Riverside, Calif.
Off to a good start this season as he earned the win over Hastings in the season opener... Went five innings and gave up just one unearned one on five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks... Followed with a strong seven-inning performance against Iowa State, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out eight., but did not figure in the decision... He is 1-0 with an impressive 1.50 ERA with 15 strikeouts and just one walk this season... Had one of the best seasons in many years for an Air Force pitcher last year... 6-8 record, a 5.33 ERA, five complete games and a shutout... Broke the school record with 104.2 innings pitched last season... School-record 21.1 scoreless inning streak... Led the team with 85 strikeouts, the third most in AFA history... Named the MWC Pitcher of the Week twice.
Gerremy Goldsberry -- C1C (Sr.), OF, Omaha, Neb.
Matt Kaercher -- C2C (Jr.), P, Billings, Mont.
Mike Thiessen -- C1C (Sr.), CF, Modesto, Calif.
Adam Howes -- C3C (So.), 1B, Phoenix, Ariz.
Mike Tufte -- C1C (Sr.), RHP, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Additional Player Notes:
Hitting Streaks 13 Mike Thiessen (May 6-Present) 11 Gerremy Goldsberry (May 12-Present) Misc. Stats Overall: 5-0 Home: 5-0 Away: 0-0 Current Streak: W 5 MWC Overall: 0-0 MWC home: 0-0 MWC away: 0-0 First game: 1-0 Second game: 1-0 Single game: 3-0 1-run games: 1-0 2-run games: 2-0 3+-run games: 0-0 4+ run games: 2-0 Extra inning games: 0-0 AFA leads after 5th: 4-0 Opp. leads after 5th: 1-0 AFA leads after the 7th: 2-0 Opp. leads after the 7th: 0-0 Wins in last at-bat: 1 Losses in last at-bat: 0 Score 5+ runs: 4-0 Score 4 or less runs: 1-0 When out-hit opp.: 4-0 When out-hit by opp.: 1-0 Vs. left-handed starter: 0-0 Vs. right-handed starter: 5-0 Starts by Position C - Daniel Petro (4); Brett Ellis (1) 1B - Adam Howes (5) 2B - Nelson Prouty (4); Brian LaBasco (1) 3B - Price Paramore (5) SS - Brian LaBasco (3); Nelson Prouty (1); Kris Wolfram (1) LF - Gerremy Goldsberry (4); Don Rolleg (1) CF - Mike Thiessen (3); Don Rolleg (1); Tony Shockley (1) RF - Josh Phifer (4); Gerremy Goldsberry (1) DH - Derck Kasel (5) Probable Pitching Rotation -- Game 1 - Erik Fisher (1-0, 1.50 ERA) Game 2 - Matt Kaercher (1-0, 0.82 ERA) Game 3 - Johnny Koegel (1-0, 9.00 ERA) Game 4 - Mike Tufte (2-0, 7.04 ERA)