Climbing IIAC standings on top of Duhawks' to-do list
Sat, Mar. 5, 2011 - [Baseball]

The Loras College baseball team has their sights set on a run up the Iowa Conference standings in 2011 after a 15-24, 9-15 2010 season. At the core of the blueprint for success in 2011 is a senior class comprised of eight Duhawks and an experienced pitching staff that returns seven hurlers - losing none to graduation. Ben Kuebel and John Schroeder graduated after logging significant innings over their careers at third base and catcher.

Five of the eight seniors on the 2011 team are expected to see time on the mound, with Calvin Rea (Cascade, Iowa), Austin Brown (Dyersville, Iowa), and Kyle Soeder (Dubuque, Iowa) contributing in the outfield spots.

Offensively, each of the five hitters who posted averages over .350 last year are back. Rea led the team at .398, with Spencer Radabaugh (Dyersville, Iowa) hitting .379 in 29 at bats, Clay Henricksen (Grayslake, Ill.) at .366, Soeder at .364, and Brown at .358. Rea and Soeder were each 2nd Team All-IIAC selections a year ago and Rea also earned All-Region honors.

There are some spots in the infield which may see rotations/platoons, with familiar faces at others.

Multiple Duhawks could see time behind the plate, including Henricksen, Travis Olson (Hiawatha, Iowa), and Chris Rock (Swea City, Iowa). At first base, BJ Juergens (Dubuque, Iowa) and Kyle Barton (Wheeling, Ill.) return to battle for the first base spot with designated hitter duties also on their radars. At third base, Radabaugh and newcomers Eric DeSousa (Dyersville, Iowa) and Connor Reilly (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) are all in the mix.

The middle infield will likely consist of first year infielder Mike Pudlo (Grayslake, Ill.) at shortstop and a double play mate at second that could include either returners Jordan Ries (Bellevue, Iowa) or Mike Canevello (McHenry, Ill.) - or newcomers Joe Walker (Glenwood, Ill.) or Alex Rodriguez (Chicago, Ill.).

The pitching staff is where most of the experience is on this year's roster, with well over half of last year's innings pitched returning. Among those are senior starters Kyler Laurie (Elgin, Ill.), Cole Boge (Dubuque, Iowa), and Kevin Moriarty (Evergreen, Ill.). Ben Cottrell - a sophomore from Dubuque - started twice last year and made 12 appearances total. This group accounted for 150 innings and 83 strikeouts in 2010. Nine different players recorded the 15 Loras wins.

Eric Rife (McHenry, Ill.), and Greg Farrey (Dubuque, Iowa) will get innings out of the bullpen and Radabaugh will resume closer duties after recording three saves a year ago and a team best 3.07 ERA.

Fresh faces on the mound expected to log innings include Nick Battalini (Spring Grove, Ill.), Kendall Paluch (Joliet, Ill.), and Jeremy Gerardy (Dubuque, Iowa).

"Returning to the Iowa Conference tournament and meeting team goals will be the result of improved defense, execution on offense, and throwing strikes in 2011," head coach Carl Tebon said this February.

"We need to take each individual game as a separate challenge, make the routine plays, and trust our abilities when we step into the batter's box," Tebon added. "Once we prove we can do those things, we'll be in a better position in the standings."

The season opens in Jacksonville, Illinois March 5-6 with four games. Loras will be outside Orlando, Florida for eight games in six days from March 16-21. The Iowa Conference schedule starts March 25 in Pella against Central College. Much of April will be spent on the road, with eight home games total to close the season, including the final five in the month of May.