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Huskies Baseball Opens Season with #6 Javelinas

01/30/2019 - 5:40 PM

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Huskies Baseball Opens Season with #6 Javelinas
2019 SCSU Opening Day Starter Dominic Austing

Opening Day is nearly here for St. Cloud State Baseball, with the season beginning on Friday, February 1 at 1:30 p.m. CST against #6 Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Huskies and the Javelinas are joined by #20 Central Missouri, Tarleton State, Arkansas Tech and St. Mary’s at the Houston Winter Invitational held at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.

 

Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane is a Central Missouri alumni and a major proponent of the Houston Winter Invitational’s existence. The showcase-style invitational has been held since 2013. This season will mark the second appearance for St. Cloud State, having gone 3-0 in 2016, and the fourth for Kingsville. The Javelinas have gone 9-1 across showings in the inaugural 2013 Invitational, 2017 and 2018.

 

Texas A&M-Kingsville made their program’s first NCAA DII College World Series last season, going 42-17 (15-9 LSC) and winning the NCAA South Central Regional. Despite graduating starting third baseman Levi Zents, rightfielder Dallas Stefano, catcher Christian Caudle (Drafted by St. Louis in the 37th Round of the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft) and centerfielder Austin Ingraham, the Javelinas possess a strong nucleus of returning offensive producers. Redshirt-senior first baseman Pablo Hernandez is one of the most dangerous power threats in the South Central Region, holding a career slash line of .311/.379/.505 for an .884 OPS with 45 doubles, 5 triples, 15 home runs, 119 RBI and 20 steals across 152 games in the blue and gold. Although he experienced a down year last season, his average dipping to .256 with a slight bump in strikeouts and a 3.2% drop in walks, Hernandez still possesses all the talent and skill to be a game-changer for the Hogs’. Fellow redshirt-senior corner outfielder Manny Loredo is one of the better pure hitters the Huskies will see on Opening Weekend. After spending three seasons at Division I Texas-Rio Grande Valley, the lefty-hitting Loredo transferred to Kingsville in 2018 and hit .352/.440/.533 culminating in a .974 OPS with 10 doubles, a triple, 6 home runs and 39 RBI while holding outstanding strikeout and walk rates of 11.9% and 12.4% respectively.

 

Up the middle, the Javelinas bring back a third year double-play combo in redshirt-senior shortstop Alex Gonzalez and redshirt-junior second baseman Kohl Ullman. Despite being known more for the glove than the bat, Gonzalez takes a very good at-bat out of the nine hole, and brings immense value with his defensive prowess. Ullman posted a big year as the leadoff man for Kingsville in 2018, driving in 43 while belting 14 doubles, a triple and a home run on his way to a .328/.427/.426 slash line. Giancarlo Servin projects as a potential breakout two-way player as the starting third baseman and a reliever for Kingsville after putting up an .852 OPS in just 22 starts and 110 plate appearances as a true freshman.

 

With Caudle graduated, athletic redshirt-sophomore Will Arnold takes the reigns as Kingsville’s starting backstop. Serving as Caudle’s backup in 2018, Arnold slashed .271/.429/.396 with three doubles and a home run while knocking in 18 and stealing 5 bags in a meager 63 plate appearances.

 

Loredo will hold one of the Javelina’s starting outfield spots, with returner Dylan Hutcheson and JUCO transfers Austin De Leon and Seth Spinn battling for the two openings. The switch-hitting Hutcheson brings speed and on-base prowess to the table, while both Spinn and De Leon showed ability as power-speed threats while at the Junior College level.

 

Kingsville’s pitching staff graduated weekend anchors Isaiah Lybarger, Kyle Craft, Jarred Taylor and Lee May Gonzalez, but returns two of their best arms in senior Preston Plovanich and sophomore Tyler Flores. Plovanich will likely be tabbed for his second career Opening Day Start, as the 2016 Lone Star Conference Freshman of the Year brings plenty of experience to the staff. Although his ERA jumped from 3.79 to 6.08 last season, the lefty posted the lowest FIP of his career at 3.41 while bumping up his strikeout rate by 2.3%. Control has been an occasional issue for Plovanich, with a career 8.6% walk rate. The bullpen is a massive strength for Kingsville, with star closer Joshua Valdez returning for his senior year. Valdez appeared in 19 games out of the Javelina bullpen in 2018, posting a 3.24 ERA and a 2.62 FIP over 33.1 innings, notching 6 saves while punching out 53 for a mind-blowing 37.1% strikeout rate. The team also brings in former Nebraska-Kearney closer Eric Sandoz, who slammed the door with 9 saves in 2018 for the now-defunct Lopers, making 25 appearances and firing 33.1 innings to the tune of a 2.97 ERA. Tied in with talented setup men Tyler Crouch, Alex Canul and Garrett Alexander, Opening Day should present fans with a very fun battle between a pair of elite bullpens.

 

The Huskies take on Tarleton State on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and #20 Central Missouri Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

 

KVSC’s Opening Day coverage begins with Husky Den Pregame at 12:30 p.m. with first pitch to follow at 1:30 p.m.

 

Projected Starters

Game 1, Friday 1:30 pm- RH Dominic Austing (7-1, 1.94*) vs LH Preston Plovanich (6-2, 6.08*)

 

*- 2018 NCAA Stats

Sports Schedule

  • Women's Basketball vs Bemidji State University (Sports Stream)
    Feb 22, 2019 - 5:30
  • Men's Basketball vs Bemidji State University (Sports Stream)
    Feb 22, 2019 - 7:30
  • Women's Basketball vs Minnesota Crookston (Sports Stream)
    Feb 23, 2019 - 3:30

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