Beavers brace for No. 7 Wartburg in IIAC opener
Buena Vista University baseball coach Steve Eddie says he'll know a lot more about his team after its Iowa Conference opener Saturday at Wartburg.
The Beavers, who lost seven seniors to graduation last spring, will be heavy underdogs to the Knights, ranked seventh in the nation in NCAA Division III.
"They have outstanding pitching," said Eddie, who will start University of Iowa transfer Ryan Dupic on the mound in game one of a doubleheader. Sioux Central alum Dan Christiansen will get the ball in the second game.
"I'm confident we have good pitching as well, so we expect to be in a couple of close, low-scoring games," he said.
The BVU baseball team returned from its spring trip in Arizona last weekend, going 3-5 during the break. They lost a number of close games, losing 3-2 in the trip opener to Middlebury (Vermont) College, and a 7-6 loss at the hands of Hamline University of St. Paul, Minn.
BVU's bats came alive in its last two games, as they swept a pair from Albright College of Reading, Penn., 9-2 and 11-6.
Both those wins were key, according to coach Eddie.
" I think our guys learned a lot about what they need to to do to win games," he said. "They realize that it's not going to come easy for them.
"We have some new guys playing, and in our last two games, we started hitting the ball better and playing closer to our potential."
Overall, Eddie was especially pleased with his pitching and defense on the spring trip.
"Our guys really made some nice plays in the field," he said.
The coach added that pitching and defense seemed ahead of the offense, at least until the final two games. He added that if his team can consistently score runs, it will be a contender in the Iowa Conference race this season.
"I have a lot of confidence that our pitching and defense will be good," he said. "How we finish will depend on us being able to score runs consistently."
Offensively, BVU looks good on paper. They return four of their top five hitters from last season, including senior outfielder Joe Poole (Omaha, Neb.) and third baseman Derek Fink (Denison-Schleswig).
Both were all-conference selections after BVU finished 8-8 in IIAC play in 2005, good for a tie for fourth place.
Last spring, Poole hit .349, scored 40 runs and stole 15 bases from the leadoff spot. Fink hit .350 and drove in 27 runs.
Two other returnees had strong offensive seasons last year, including junior Adam Hardie (Marengo, Iowa) and sophomore Alex Fokken (Kingsley-Pierson High). Hardie hit .351 last year before missing the last month due to injury, while Fokken hit .348 before suffering a season-ending injury.
"I don't think we have any great players," Eddie said. "But we are strong up and down the lineup and we don't have a weak link in the order."
That's especially true with the emergence of two battle-tested freshman in the middle infield spots.
Shortstop Lance Eddie, a three-year starter out of Storm Lake High, and second baseman David Callahan, a standout for Sioux City Heelan for the past two years, looks promising
Lance Eddie was a fixture at short for three years for the Tornadoes. Last season, he hit..414 with 24 RBI, 11 stolen bases, five doubles and one homer.
Callahan had similar success at Bishop Heelan in 2005, hitting .407 with 37 RBI, 49 runs scored and four homers.
Lance Eddie has started 11 of 12 games this season and leads BVU in hitting with a .353 average. In the doubleheader vs. Albright, Eddie went 5 for 8.
Thus far, the freshman has knocked in 8 runs, second on the team. He's hit two doubles and walked seven times with has a lofty .463 on-base percentage.
Callahan has started all 14 of BVU's games. He's hitting .271 with five walks. Both middle infielders have played well in the field so far.
"With freshmen or first-year players, we feel that anything they can give us offensively is gravy," coach Eddie said. "We want them to go out there and play good defense."
On the mound, Dupic and Christiansen should be one of the Iowa Conference's top 1-2 punches.
Dupic, a 6-3 junior out of Emmetsburg, threw 48 innings for the Hawkeyes the last two years, and has been a run producer at the plate. He's driven in nine runs thus far and has hit two doubles and a homer.
Christiansen, a 6-foot senior out of Peterson and Sioux Central High, has thrown 15 innings thus far.
He's given up just five earned runs on nine hits and 15 strikeouts. In a 2-1 win over the University of Chicago last week, Christiansen threw eight shutout innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out eight.
Coach Eddie said his team has plenty of potential, but adds that it has to work hard to improve.
"I think we have a group of guys who don't like losing," he said. "We just have to understand that we can't show up and win; it doesn't come that easy."
*The Beavers were picked by IIAC coaches to finish tied with Simpson for fourth place in the league this season. Wartburg was picked to finish first, followed by Coe and Central. The sixth through ninth place teams, respectively, were Dubuque, Loras, Luther and Cornell.
*Thus far, the Beavers' top pitcher has been Michael Barta, a junior righthander out of Carroll. He's thrown 19 1/3 innings and given up just three earned runs for a 1.40 ERA. He's yielded 17 hits, walked nine and has struck out five.
*So far this season, Poole is hitting .295 with five RBI and five runs scored. Marc Goeders, a returning starter at catcher, is hitting .290 with three RBI and nine walks.
*BVU will likely see last year's Iowa Conference MVP on the mound in Saturday's first or second game. Wartburg senior righthander Matt Scherbring, also an All-American and two-time All-Region pitcher, went 12-1 last season with a 2.44 ERA. In 103 innings-pitched and 15 starts, he held opposing hitters to a .217 average while striking out 62 and walking 27.
*Last season, Wartburg lost seven position players to graduation but just one pitcher. They return catcher Brian Greiner, who hit .321 with 30 RBI, four homers and 16 doubles last season.
*BVU will open its home season Thursday, April 6 against Loras College at the SLHS field. The Beavers host Augsburg of Minneapolis at home Saturday, April 8. They resume conference play Saturday, April 15 at Simpson.
*The Iowa Conference postseason tournament will be played May 11, 12 and 13 at Veterans Stadium in Cedar Rapids.