2011 TXST Baseball Season Preview
February 7, 2011
After back-to-back Southland Conference regular season championships over the past two seasons, the Texas State baseball program knows the blueprint for success. In 2011, the Bobcats will look to extend their streak of conference titles to three while also aiming to return to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the program’s history.
Leading the Bobcats into the 2011 season is head coach Ty Harrington who returns for his 12th season in San Marcos. The 2009 Southland Conference Coach of the Year has led Texas State to a 79-39 record over the past two seasons. With 376 career victories to his credit, Harrington has averaged 34 wins per season as the Bobcats’ head coach and needs 24 victories to reach 400 for his career.
Joining Harrington for each of their fourth seasons on the coaching staff are assistant coaches Derek Matlock and Jeremy Fikac. Matlock, who also serves as the team’s recruiting coordinator, will once again serve as the team’s pitching coach, and Fikac will work primarily with the team’s hitters.
A new addition to the Bobcat coaching staff is former Texas State player Jordan Kopycinski. After spending the past two seasons as a catcher for the Bobcats, Kopycinski will assume Texas State’s volunteer assistant coach position and mentor the team’s catchers.
The Bobcat coaching staff has high expectations for a team that topped both the 2011 Southland Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll and Sports Information Director’s Poll. Texas State received nine of the 12 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll while tallying eight first-place votes in the sports information director’s poll. Southeastern Louisiana finished second in both polls, while Lamar was third in the coaches’ poll and Northwestern State was third in the sports information director’s poll.
“We have a formula for success and our players know what we expect out of them,” Harrington said. “They know what it takes to win a championship.”
Individually, Texas State has also received substantial recognition leading up to the 2011 season. Four Bobcats appeared on the 2011 All-Southland Conference Preseason Teams as Carson Smith, Kyle Kubitza and Bret Atwood were named to the All-SLC Preseason First Team and Jeff McVaney earned All-SLC Preseason Second Team honors.
For Smith, the preseason recognition did not end there as he earned national accolades from two sources. A right-handed pitcher from Midland, Texas, Smith was selected to both the College Baseball Lineup Preseason All-American Third Team and Louisville Slugger Preseason All-American Third Team. Both honors come on the heels of being named the 2010 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year and Newcomer of the Year following last season.
Smith is one of 20 returning lettermen from the 2010 Texas State team that finished 38-22 overall and 23-10 in conference play. The Bobcats have six of their position starters returning in 2011 along with 12 returning pitchers. Joining the solid core of returnees for the Bobcats will be 17 newcomers, including nine transfers and eight freshmen.
“My expectations are for our newcomers to fall in with the returners as quickly as possible. The guys who mesh in with the team the quickest are usually the most productive,” Harrington said. “We have a good group of newcomers, and the fact that they’re meshing well with our returners is a good sign.”
One factor that will have a significant impact not only on the Bobcats, but on every team in the nation, will be the new rules put into effect regarding bats. In short, the new rules limit bat options to those which react more closely to a wooden bat.
“We’re going to have to make some adjustments as the season progresses because of the bat,” Harrington said. “Now that the bat has changed, we’ll have to see how that affects the game. It may bring back the bunt game some more.”
Smith, a junior, enters the season as the ace of a deep, versatile pitching staff after finishing the 2010 season with a 10-4 record and 3.10 ERA in 104 2/3 innings pitched. The Bobcats’ fifth-ever ABCA South Central Region First Team selection a season ago, Smith struck out a team-high 94 batters while tossing six complete games – three of which were shutouts to tie the program single-season record. He also came out of the bullpen to help shut down opposing offenses, recording three saves in the process.
“When Carson is at the top of his game, I feel like he has the ability to beat anybody in the country. I think his stuff is good enough, and he’s competitive enough,” Harrington said. “There are a lot of expectations on him with the accolades that he has received prior to the start of the season.”
Aside from Smith at the top, the pitching rotation remains unknown entering the season; however, Harrington explained the reasoning behind that strings from his team’s great depth.
“There’s a lot of guys who are vying for weekend spots,” Harrington said. “I’m hopeful that Lee Colon and Brian Borski will be contributors, and we have some junior college transfers who came in that I think will be able to contribute immediately.”
Returning senior pitchers for the Bobcats include Brian Borski, Lee Colon, Joseph Dvorsky and Fielding Pittman. Borski, 6-foot-1 right hander, has started 26 games for Texas State over the past two seasons, totaling an 8-11 record during that span, while Colon, a 6-foot-1 southpaw, started nine games a season ago for the Bobcats in his first season. He finished the 2010 campaign with a 5-3 record, striking out 56 batters in 63 2/3 innings on the mound.
A right-hander from Waco, Texas, Dvorsky made two appearances out of the bullpen in 2010 and figures to have a larger role this season after making strides during the summer in which he was named the Texas Collegiate League Pitcher of the Year. Pittman was one of coach Harrington’s most reliable options out of the bullpen a season ago and figures to assume that role once again. Last season, Pittman compiled a 3-0 record and 4.55 ERA after making 27 appearances. A right-handed pitcher from Dallas, Pittman held opposing batters to just a .227 batting average, the lowest mark of any Texas State pitcher.
McVaney returns for his junior season after a breakout 2010. He led the team in earned run average (1.75) while making 22 appearances out of the bullpen and one start. A 6-foot-2 southpaw, McVaney will also play outfield for Texas State after hitting .350 with 10 home runs last season.
“McVaney is going to play in the outfield and pitch, which is a tough thing to shuffle,” Harrington said. “But Jeff is a very competitive player who could either be a starter or reliever for us.”
Juniors Covey Morrow and Mitchell Pitts will figure into the pitching mix in 2011. A 6-foot-5 lefty, Morrow went 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA last season out of the bullpen. Pitts provided versatility a season ago, making seven starts and 13 relief appearances as he finished 6-1 with a 4.61 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings of work.
Not only do the Bobcats have an abundance of experience returning on the mound, but Harrington is especially encouraged by the prospects of his freshmen class that includes seven pitchers.
“We’ve got a really talented freshman group,” Harrington said. “I think we have four or five freshmen who I think are really going to be tremendous. They are going to get a chance to get out there early in the season.”
The Bobcats have a pair of returners and one newcomer who could all see time behind the plate.
Sophomore Andrew Stumph started 46 games for Texas State a season ago and will likely assume the role as the team’s starter to begin his second season. A 6-foot native of Katy, Texas, Stumph hit .277 with five home runs and 36 RBIs as a freshman.
Andrew Lacombe, a sophomore utility player who can also play infield and outfield, played in 11 games as a freshman, making four starts, and will serve as the team’s backup along with transfer junior Casey Kalenkosky. For the past two seasons, Kalenkosky, who will also play first base, played at Cisco Junior College where he was named the MVP of the conference.
“Between Stumph, Lacombe and Kalenkosky it gives us three quality guys behind the plate,” Harrington said.
Kubitza returns to his familiar third base position after starting all 60 games for Texas State a season ago as a sophomore. A 6-foot-4 junior from Colleyville, Texas, Kubitza led the Bobcats with 20 doubles and tied for the team lead with 11 home runs in 2010. He hit .354 with a team-high 60 runs scored and 58 RBIs. A patient hitter, Kubitza led the team in on-base percentage (.450) after taking a team-high 37 walks.
“I think that Kyle did a tremendous job this fall of becoming a better defender,” Harrington said. “He possesses all of the tools that you look for in a player.”
With the graduation of Kyle Livingstone, the Bobcats were left with a void at first base, but Harrington is confident that position has been solidified with the combination of Kalenkosky and Stumph. The duo will alternate playing first base and catcher with Kalenkosky projected to be the regular starter at first.
Shortstop is another position where the Bobcats will have to fill a void after Jason Martinson was drafted following last season. Waiting to step in are both Christian Gallegos and Isaac Nuti who will be in competition for the starting spot.
Gallegos is a sophomore who saw playing time in 17 games during his freshman season at Texas State, hitting .250 in limited action. Nuti is a junior who transferred to Texas State after playing at Blinn College for two seasons where he was an all-region performer.
“The shortstop position is going to be a battle between Christian and Isaac,” Harrington said. “They bring different things to the table, and it’ll be exciting to see how it plays out.”
At second base, Harrington has the luxury of having a pair of players who have each proven more than capable of playing the position. Senior Clint Vest and junior Tyler Sibley will each play second base at times during the 2011 season while also seeing time at other positions.
Vest, a 5-foot-9 native of Sugar Land, Texas, led the team with a .375 batting average last season, totaling 39 hits in 104 at-bats. He finished the season with 19 runs scored, 11 RBIs and four doubles – all career highs for the fifth-year senior. In addition to playing second, Vest will likely back up Kyle Kubitza at third base.
Sibley, a 5-foot-10 native of Frisco, Texas, has spent time both in the outfield and at second base for the Bobcats over the past two seasons, a role he’ll once again assume this season. In 2010, Sibley posted a .304 batting average with 14 doubles, 44 runs scored and 21 RBIs. He also stole seven bases and finished with an on-base percentage of .406.
Anchoring the Bobcat outfield will be Atwood in center field, a position he has patrolled for the past two seasons. A 5-foot-8 senior from Katy, Texas, Atwood has hit higher than .345 each of the past two seasons while playing outstanding defense. In 2010, Atwood started all 60 games for Texas State and hit .346 with 46 runs scored and 36 RBIs. He struck out just 21 times in 254 at-bats and also swiped 12 bases.
“Atwood is one of the greatest center fielders that I’ve ever coached,” Harrington said. “He plays every pitch as hard as you can play.”
The corner outfield spots will likely have several different players rotating through depending on the situation. McVaney and Sibley will see time in the outfield, while redshirt junior Cody Gambill and sophomore transfer Morgan Mickan will also have opportunities.
Gambill did not play in 2010 because of an injury, but he will have the chance to contribute in 2011. As a sophomore, Gambill hit .357 in 16 games.
Mickan transferred from Texas prior to last season, and after sitting out all of 2010, he’ll be in the mix to start regularly for the Bobcats this season.
The team’s 2011 schedule features 55 games, 31 of which will be played in San Marcos at the Bobcat Baseball Stadium. The Bobcats will be on the road for 24 games, including trips to Texas, TCU, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
Texas State has compiled a highly competitive non-conference schedule that brings several top-tier programs to play in San Marcos. Among those teams coming to play at the Bobcat Baseball Stadium are Rice, Houston, Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech.
“This schedule identifies that our team will be taking on great challenges this season,” said Texas State head coach Ty Harrington. “It reflects the caliber of teams that our coaches, fans, students and alumni expect our program to play.”
Bobcat fans will have plenty of opportunities to see the team play at home early in the season as 14 of Texas State’s first 19 games will be played at the Bobcat Baseball Stadium. The Bobcats welcome Nebraska to San Marcos to begin the season on February 18 as part of a four-team tournament that also includes Missouri State and Air Force. The Bobcats then play games against Missouri State on February 19 and Air Force on February 20.
The Bobcats will be tested early as Rice travels to the Bobcat Baseball Stadium on February 23 for a single game. Then, Akron comes to San Marcos for a three-game series on February 25-27.
The first road game for Texas State comes in the beginning of March as the Bobcats make the trip to Waco for a single game against Baylor on March 1 before the team heads to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on March 4-6 for a three-game set. That series marks the first three contests on the team’s 33-game Southland Conference schedule.
Following the trip to Corpus Christi, Texas State returns home for one game against Baylor on March 8 before taking on Houston for three games in three days on March 11-13.
March 15 marks the first of two meetings between Texas State and Texas as the Bobcats travel up the road to Austin for a game against the Longhorns.
After a three-game home series against Sam Houston State (March 18-20), the Bobcats hit the road for four games. Texas State plays at TCU on March 22 before visiting Lamar for three games (March 25-27).
Texas State wraps up the month of March with a home game against Missouri on March 30, and the Bobcats then continue the SLC-heavy portion if its schedule with a three-game home stand versus Stephen F. Austin (April 1-3). Trips to Arkansas (April 6) and Central Arkansas (April 8-10) precede the team’s next five games at home – one against Houston Baptist (April 12), three against Southeastern Louisiana (April 15-17) and one against Texas Tech (April 18).
The Bobcats play three in a row against Northwestern State on April 21-23 before they get their second look at Texas in Austin on April 26.
Eight of the team’s next 11 games will be played at the Bobcat Baseball Stadium as the Bobcats play Prairie View A&M (April 27), McNeese State (April 29-May 1) and UTSA (May 6) at home before the teams goes to San Antonio for a pair at UTSA on May 7-8. The Bobcats then pay a visit to College Station for a matchup with Texas A&M on May 10. The Bobcats’ home Southland Conference Schedule then wraps up as Nicholls comes to San Marcos for a three-game set.
Texas State gets its second look at Rice on May 17 before the Bobcats play at UT Arlington three times (May 19-21) to finish the regular season.
The Bobcats will host the 2011 Southland Conference Tournament at the Bobcat Baseball Stadium, which begins on May 25.
“This is an exciting of a home schedule as we have had,” Harrington said. “It is certainly attractive for our fans and season ticket holders.”