Written by Sean Merriman
Michigan State baseball coach David Grewe was hired this off-season in order to take the Spartan baseball team to the next level and establish the program as one of the premiere teams in the Midwest. Grewe was acquired this summer having previous experience as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Notre Dame. He brings hard work and dedication to a program that is in serious need of success after posting a dismal 22-18 record last year that included going 10-18 in big ten play.
The Spartans return 27 players from last yearâ€™s team and have added six newcomers who should provide much needed talent and depth to the squad. Michigan State will rely on a strong infield and an experienced batting lineup to make a run at a big ten championship. However, coach Grewe believes that it is the pitching staff that will make the difference for the Spartans this spring.
The top returning pitcher from last yearâ€™s team is Junior Craig Brookes who led the team with a 6-1 record on the mound. Brookes is not known for throwing exceptionally hard, but instead for his sneaky off speed pitches. Brookes has added a cutter to his array of pitches this off season that should have big ten hitters guessing whenever he takes the mound.
Junior John Dwan will be one of the top starters in the Spartans rotation this spring. Dwan was plagued with injuries in the 2005 season, which set him back in his production on the mound. In 2004, Dwan made 9 starts for the Spartans and was able to post an impressive 3-1 record. He features a solid change up to go along with a fastball that is consistently in the upper 80â€™s.
Jeff Gerbe may be the lone senior in the starting rotation. Gerbe will be counted on to carry a significant load for the Spartans this year. He posses the livest fastball on the team and has worked on perfecting a deadly slider in the off season. Gerbe could also battle for the closing position as he threw out of the bullpen at times last year, but will most likely be used in the starting rotation.
Sophomore pitcher Michael Monterey has perhaps made the biggest stride this off-season. He has developed a sinking fastball to go along with his unorthodox throwing motion that should have opposing hitters off balance at times. It is not for sure whether Monterery will work out of the bullpen or in the starting rotation, but it is certain he will do a lot of throwing for the Spartan staff.
Other Spartans that could be in the running for a starting spot in the rotation include Chris Topper, Mark Sorenson, Chris Malec, Dan Noble, and Spencer Hahn.
The bullpen will be mostly pitcher by committee. The team has a variety of pitchers who could come in and set up or close out a game. Other names that we will see on the mound this year for the Spartans will be: Tony Clausen, Chris Cullen, Max Miller, Nolan Moody, Peter Wolf, Matt Traush, AJ Dunn, Quinn Ewert, and Mike Takashima.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Spartans return many key players from last yearâ€™s team. Leading the group is junior outfielder Ryan Basham who is perhaps the teamâ€™s most valuable player. Basham led the team last year in many offensive categories including batting average (.358), Home runs (8), RBIâ€™s (43), and walks (28). He is a left-handed hitter who should provide both power and consistency in the Spartans batting lineup.
Joining Basham in the outfield will be another junior starter from last yearâ€™s squad, Adam Tripp. Tripp is a reliable hitter who tied Basham for the team lead in homeruns while posting a .298 batting average and leading the team in runs scored. The third outfield spot should be wide open, as there are four players in competition for the position. The four players include senior Jason Embree, sophomore pitcher/outfielder Tony Clausen, and freshmen Kyle Day and Kyle Hurtt.
The Spartan infield has great experience with all four starters having seen a lot of playing time last year. The infield will be anchored by a preseason Wallace Watch list candidate, Troy Krider. The junior shortstop led the big ten with a .405 batting average in conference play last year. He led the Spartans in hits with 77, which included an impressive 24 game hitting streak (3/19-4/29).
Seniors Alan Cattrysse and Oliver Wolcott will also start in the infield. Cattrysee will start in the infield for his fourth straight year, this time probably at second base. Wolcott is the leader on the team with a great passion for playing the game. He was fifth on the team last year with a .300 batting average and is known not for his power, but his excellent situational hitting skills. He is a great bunter, and a good base runner.
Sophomore Steve Gerstenberger will probably see the majority of the playing time at first base. Gerstenberger is a versatile athlete who split time last year between second and third base. Freshman Quinn Ewert could also see some time at first base.
Junior Sean Walker returns as the teams starting catcher. He has great arm strength defensively and remarkable power at the plate. Walker should be a mainstay in the middle of the Spartan lineup. Sophomore Kyle Kunkle and freshman Kyle Day could see action behind the plate as well this year.
This season looks very promising for the Spartans, as Coach Grewe is extremely excited about the talent that this club possesses. The big ten is always a competitive league and this year will be no different. The Spartans will rely heavily on their depth and experience to establish them as one of the premiere teams in the Midwest. If this team can stay healthy and commit to playing hard every day, look out for Michigan State baseball to be back on the radar.
The Spartans open play on Feb.24th at the Cardinal Classic in Beaumont Texas. They open the Big Ten season on March 31rst against Indiana University