Air Force Baseball Preview Day Two: Pitching
Feb. 10, 2009
Air Force baseball opens its 2009 season on Friday, Feb. 20 against Navy and Kansas at the Service Academies Spring Classic at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn.
AirForceSports.com will preview the team with position-by-position breakdowns every day of the week of Feb. 9-13.
Monday Feb. 9 - Season Outlook/Schedule
"Pitching depth is something we've really worked hard at, recruiting-wise, and we feel we've gotten to a point where we have that," Hutcheon said. "We have a nice blend of proven starters and a strong group of middle and closing relief."
Petro and Truesdale are slated to be weekend starters for the Falcons. Petro is a three-year starter and the Falcons' most experienced pitcher. Truesdale had a breakthrough season last year as a sophomore, earning team MVP honors. Truesdale ranked second in the Mountain West Conference with 97.2 innings pitched and ranked in the conference top 10 with 58 strikeouts.
"When Jake and Alex have their stuff working, they are up there with the top pitchers in our conference," Hutcheon said. "We look for them to provide stability in our rotation and be able to take us deep into games each time they go out. They have proven they can win at this level and I expect them to be even better this year."
Also looking to earn a starting spot in the rotation will be freshman Evan Abrecht, senior Casey Allen and sophomore Brad Pingel. Abrecht is a lanky, 6-foot-4 right-hander that the coaching staff envisions as becoming one of the team's top-end starters as he matures. Allen, who returns to the team after a year off, has starting pitching experience as a freshman and sophomore, and is a proven and reliable strike-throwing righty. Pingel is a crafty left-hander that will get some starts and be a valuable reliever.
"We envision Evan being one of our guys, starting pitching-wise," Hutcheon said. "It's just a matter of how quickly he adjusts to the Div. I hitters. He's got the build and makeup to be a top-notch pitcher for us. Casey has been a proven starter for us and he will get a look early on for starting duties. Brad can also step in and provide quality innings as a starter or in key middle-inning situations."
Anchoring the bullpen will be Ruvolo. A fiery competitor with a rubber-arm, Ruvolo led the Falcons last year with five wins and four saves in 25 appearances. Joining Ruvolo in setup and closing situations will be freshman Aaron Kurcz. The right-hander has shown some good zip on his fastball and was one of the top pitchers for the Falcons during fall ball.
"Mike has been solid for us late in games and we expect him to be even better with two years of experience. Aaron has shown the talent to close out games as well and we are confident that when we can get into those last couple of innings with the lead, we have the guys that are capable of shutting the door on the opposition."
Joining Ruvolo and Kurcz in the pen will be seniors Jason Griggs and Adam Teach. Griggs is a converted middle-infielder that became one of the Falcons' top middle-inning relievers late into 2008. Teach is a left-hand specialist entering his third year in the program. Junior Nick Batey returns to the squad after missing 2008 due to Tommy John surgery and provides a tall, 6-foot-5 right-hand presence out of the pen. Sophomore right-hander Matt Barattino gave the Falcons quality innings as a freshman and has made significant improvements in the off-season.
Five more freshmen will add depth to the pen as well. The two right-handers in Mike Kazakoff and Shayne Hulce both bring solid credentials after playing high school ball in Colorado. Three freshmen lefties in Michael Ceci, Andrew Golz and Andrew Loyd will provide Hutcheon with ample lefty-lefty options late in games.
"Our veterans will lead the way in terms of the pitching staff, but we have some young guys that will get a chance to prove themselves early in the season," Hutcheon said. "I am pleased with the depth we have and some of our young guys have already shown that they have the talent and makeup to excel at this level. Having four different left-handers will only help us out as well."