A new era for Grace College baseball has commenced under first-year head coach Bill Barr.
Barr has coached baseball for 22 years, most recently at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, W.Va. He is more than familiar with the Crossroads League, having graduated from Mount Vernon Nazarene and coached successfully at Indiana Wesleyan.
The Lancers have high expectations for Barr’s first season. According to Barr, the players want to set a school record for wins in 2013 and have worked tirelessly in the offseason to achieve that mark.
“I really want the guys to play to the best of their ability. We want to be a team in every sense of the word,” Barr said. “If we play with courage, have high expectations of ourselves and have confidence in each other, we can have a great deal of success.”
Grace’s grinding offseason work was designed to reflect the grueling Crossroads League schedule of 36 games in 40 days.
Barr is hoping a deeper pitching rotation this season will be up to the task of a long season.
Seniors Clifford Buttermore and Matt Helm highlight Grace on the mound. Buttermore led the Lancers in 2012 with a 3.39 ERA, striking out 59 in 58.1 innings. Helm (4.35 ERA) fanned 35 batters in 39.1 innings.
Kier West, Michael Reitz, Joey Hickerson, Dellos Schabel and Tim Weber add much-needed depth and pitching experience in what should be a strength for the team this spring.
Offensively, Grace will need to replace two of the more prolific hitters in team history. Nate Wottring graduated as the all-time leader in hits and doubles, while Josh Petry left as the school’s RBI king.
Replacing some of the “better hitters in the conference,” according to Barr, won’t be easy. But returners Jeff Himes (.326 batting average), Hickerson (.382) and Jacob Bloom (.276) are ready to continue last year’s success.
Grace will also hope to counter the losses of last year’s seniors with a top-notch defense. Barr has brought in several athletic infielders – including freshmen Frank Rocchio, Brady Ousley and Dillon Papa – to pair with returners Brook Vosler and Matt Morgart in anchoring the infield. Rocchio, in particular, has demonstrated strong leadership skills, according to Barr.
“We’ll have to play a balanced game this year. We need to play defense and have some timely hitting,” Barr said. “We are working hard to be a good contact-hitting team that runs the bases well. We’re focusing on moving runners and getting bunts down to make our game a little bit more diverse.”
Although the Lancers are working hard to progress on the field of competition this year, the team under Barr is working just as hard off the field.
“We are teaching a lot more than just baseball. We are trying to teach life lessons and to set them up to be successful both here at Grace and beyond,” Barr said. “The guys have a lot of makings of a championship team with their character, heart and work ethic. If we play consistently and to our potential, we’ll have a good year and a winning season.”