Bluffton seniors set bar high for 2013 baseball campaign
February 21, 2013
By: Ryan Schadewald, sports information assistant
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Bluffton University baseball team sports a nice mix of senior leadership and young talent as the Beavers embark on the 2013 campaign. Head Coach James Grandey is excited for the start of a new season, despite the graduation of two of the most prolific hitters in Bluffton University baseball history. Nick Broyles and Tyler Stephenson, who wrapped up their outstanding careers in 2012, both stand in the top 10 of nearly every major career hitting record for the Beavers.
With a total of seven seniors on the roster this season, Coach Grandey returns a core that established a school record for victories two years ago and equaled that mark again last season. The senior class is led by two four-year starters. Outfielder Kyle Niermann (Napoleon) was named First Team All-HCAC as a sophomore and as a junior and is looking to re-write the Bluffton record books in almost every offensive category this season. In 2012, Niermann, who was a second team All-Mideast Region selection as well as a Rawlings Gold Glove Winner, tied his school record for at-bats, and his 66 hits were only two shy of his school-record 68 set in 2011. He needs just 39 safeties to move to the top of the career hits list, one season after Tyler Stephenson became the first Beaver to eclipse 200 hits (215).
Centerfielder and starting pitcher Miles Richardson (Granville/Newark Catholic), also a four-year starter who earned second team All-HCAC honors in 2012, is expecting to have a great season for the Beavers in 2013 after a terrific junior campaign. He was in the two-hole last year, batting .378 with 62 hits, 33 RBI and 30 runs scored. Richardson also led the Beavers with 10 starts in 2012, posting a 4-6 record during his junior campaign. Niermann and Richardson are both 2013 team captains for the Beavers. Junior David Ianiro (Highland Heights/Mayfield) and sophomores Michael Alexander (Monroe) and Tyler Spalding (Willis, Mich./Lincoln) all add depth to what may be the strongest Bluffton outfield assembled by Coach Grandey.
Another strength for the Beavers is behind the plate. Junior Tim Webb (Delaware/Worthington Christian), who earned second team All-HCAC honors following his first two seasons, hit .350 in 2012 with 13 doubles, 23 RBI, and 19 runs scored. He stands 16th on the all-time list for career batting average, hitting .358 over his first two seasons. The career record book also shows Webb's arm behind the plate. Webb has thrown out 20 would-be base stealers in his first two seasons, which is tied for fourth all-time at Bluffton. Senior Greg Franks (Smithville), who played in 17 games a season ago, and sophomore T.J. Devore (Grove City) give the Beavers solid depth behind the plate.
Senior Mark Hadaya (Beavercreek) pitched in 11 games in 2012, compiling a 5.40 ERA in 21.2 innings. Sophomore Brad Schlabach (Fredericksburg/Hiland) saw action in 13 games during the 2012 season, earning a 4.62 ERA over 50.2 innings. Schlabach struck out 33 batters and had a 1-2 record while starting seven games in 2012. Juniors Ben Roeschley (Graymont, Ill./Flanagan), David Ianiro (Highland Heights/Mayfield) and Todd Stover (Tipp City/Tippecanoe), along with sophomore Nate Simonds (Ypsilanti, Mich./Lincoln), will compete to round out the Bluffton rotation in 2013.
Senior Anthony Cianci (Ravenna/Southeast) and junior captain Doug Paullin (Jeromesville/Hillsdale) are the only players with significant collegiate experience returning to the Bluffton infield after Stephenson and Broyles graduated last spring. Cianci batted .330 a season ago, pounding 29 hits, scoring 17 runs and driving in 15. Doug Paullin will also be in the mix for a starting role after playing 24 games as a sophomore. Sophomore Jake Townley (Mansfield/Madison) is the front-runner at first base with freshman Cade Randolph (Marengo/Highland) competing for playing time there as well.
Coach Grandey is pleased with the improvement that a number of his younger players have made in the off-season. He expects Townley, along with fellow sophomores Mike Castro (Reynoldsburg), Jeff Roth (Bellevue) and Aaron Young (Shelby) to earn significant playing time. "Despite their youth, I am extremely confident in our infield," stated Coach Grandey. "They have spent a full year in the program and increased their overall strength and skill set."
The Bluffton baseball team will open its 40-game 2013 season when the Beavers make their annual trip to Florida to play a total of 10 games in Port Charlotte and Fort Myers. Their season will kick off on Sunday, March 3, with a doubleheader against John Carroll University at 4 p.m. Bluffton's first home game is slated for Thursday, March 14, when the Beavers welcome Wilmington College to Memorial Field at 4:15 p.m. The Beavers begin their march for an HCAC championship the weekend of March 22 and 23 as they take on the Anderson University Ravens in a three-game series at home.