Air Force Baseball 2011 Season Outlook
Feb. 11, 2011
The Air Force Academy baseball team reigns in a new coach, a new vision, and a new attitude in 2011. Under the guidance of new head coach Maj. Mike Kazlausky, the former player and graduate from the Air Force Academy brings with him both perspective and a no-nonsense attitude to the program.
Coach `Kaz' is clear the mission of the program is not just about winning baseball games, but more importantly about building leaders of character. His players are more than what you see on the field, they are this country's next generation of Air Force officers. These cadet players must be able to not only perfect their skills on the baseball field, but balance that with all the rigors of their military and academic responsibilities.
"This year's schedule will be a challenge, but that is exactly what we are preparing these players for," Kazlausky said. "We have a tremendous group of young men who are learning about mental toughness and determination. We want our kids to have fun and recognize that this is one of the greatest opportunities of a lifetime. We want them to experience all of it, and give all they got because they cannot get this time back."
Air Force returns 24 letter winners, including six starters in the field from the 2010 team that went 13-42 overall and 3-20 in Mountain West Conference play. The Falcons return 12 pitchers, with nine having starting pitching experience. Air Force also welcomes 12 talented newcomers to the mix.
Coach Kazlausky took a moment before the start of the season to talk about the 2011 Air Force Falcons.
Can you talk about you staff?
Can you talk about the players?
We have a nice blend of returning talent and newcomers. Senior team captain Nathan Carter will lead the way for us, both on and off the field. Nate is a four-year starter and will be called upon to produce for us in the middle of the order.
I believe our pitching staff will be our team strength this year. Pitching coach, Tim Dixon has provided excellent tutelage this fall and we look for that to carry over to significant improvement this year.
Junior Evan Abrecht and sophomore Sean Carley will anchor our pitching staff and will be our weekend starters. Behind Evan and Sean, we have several pitchers vying for weekend slots as well. Sophomore Ben Bertelson and junior Michael Ceci are currently in the mix to get the ball on the weekend.
Sophomores Matt Zettler, Kincaid Koehler, Alex Baker, Alex Lerda-Plog, Luke Dorlac, Todd Del Toro and Stephen Colangelo, senior Brad Pingel, junior Mike Kazakoff, and freshmen Cameron White and Kyle Van Alstine will provide significant innings for us this year as middle relievers. Middle relief is going to be very important for us and we feel we have the depth needed to be successful.
We return the core of our infield in sophomore shortstop Matthew Roberts and junior second baseman Blair Roberts. Blair is one of the toughest players I have ever been around and we expect him to be our leader in the infield. With the loss of junior Adam Hill to injury, sophomore Matt Thorne and seniors Jon McMahon and Vai Schierholtz will also play a vital role to the makeup of our infield and at third base. At first base, we have senior Parker Mayo, who will also be our backup catcher along with junior Vince Capra who will also see action at first base and on the mound.
Seniors Jon McMahon and Vai Schierholtz return to the team after taking their junior years off to focus on the Academy. Both Jon and Vai can play any of the infield positions, and we are excited to have them back. Sophomore Garrett Custons will handle the catching duties. Garrett is a returning All-American for us. He is a triple threat as he has a great arm, is a fantastic hitter and is a terror on the base paths.
In the outfield we return Carter to centerfield. Sophomore Alex Bast will man leftfield and junior Shayne Hulce and freshman Patrick Lobo will compete for the starting position in right. All four are great athletes and will contribute both offensively and will be game-changers defensively.
In the designated hitter slot, freshman Ryan Kramer gets the early nod and he will also see time in the outfield. Another freshman, Seth Kline, who comes to us from the football team, will also DH for us, in addition to backup catching duties. We also see left-hand pitcher Brad Pingel getting some at bats for us out of the DH spot.
What are your thoughts entering your first year as head coach?
Thoughts on the schedule?
What are some of the team goals?
We want to make our conference tournament, which is something we haven't done in years. We also want to bring back the Falcon pride. We need to always battle and be in games until the very last pitch. We're going to play every pitch, every inning like it's our last. We expect that our players will sprint on and off the field. They will sprint out walks, homers, everything. We will play the game very old school. We will play to win!