Sporting WCA

Baseball Preview

Coming off of last year’s disappointing loss in the district championship, the Westminster Varsity baseball team is ready to win back the state championship trophy that has evaded them the last 2 years. Not only do they have the desire to win, but they certainly seem to have the talent as well.

The Westminster lineup this year features at least 3 D1 baseball players in the infield alone. Starting off with first baseman Weston Schad, who will play at Murray State University next season. Schad has been a Varsity player since his sophomore season, and is looking to make a very smooth transition across the diamond from 3rd to 1st on the defensive side of the ball. But what Schad really brings to the lineup is power, and a lot of it. Weston hit two home runs in his just his second varsity game as a sophomore two years ago, and then added another homer just two games later. Weston hit three more home runs his Junior year, including a shot that went well over the scoreboard at Fort Zumwalt South.

Schad is not the only significant power threat in the lineup this season, as Junior 3rd baseman Kevin Graham is poised to make his mark in the Westminster history books this season as well. Graham raised more than a few eyebrows when he committed to Ole Miss in just August of his sophomore year… before he had ever played a Varsity inning. Kevin hit a homerun in his first at bat of his first Varsity start last season, and while he did not hit one out for the rest of the year, he still put together a very impressive season, with a .357 batting average and 19 RBI’s. Graham is looking to challenge Jake and Tate Matheny’s home run record this season and is already hitting home run after home run in practice.

DJ Stewart is the third of the D1 infielders this season and no doubt will be a rock defensively and offensively for the team. DJ is likely to play at Eastern Illinois next season, if he doesn’t decide to go straight to playing professional baseball, that is. DJ has talked to 18 of the 30 MLB organizations, and believes he will be drafted in June. But for the Westminster team, DJ is not only going to need to be consistent in the field and at the plate, but also on the mound, DJ put together one of the best seasons in Westminster history his sophomore year as he gave up just 1 run in 24 innings of work, which adds up to an incredible ERA of .29. DJ will be the ace this year, the only problem is who might back him up.

The pitching is a question mark this year for the Varsity team, but there is still unlimited potential within the pitching staff. Bucknell commit Matt Ottsen is an exciting prospect for the team. While he struggled with the strike zone last season, he looks to be a dominant force for the team this year, and he has the tools to back it up. Ottsen sits in the high eighties with his fastball, which also has filthy movement. His heater goes together perfectly with his curve, another pitch of his with wicked movement. If Ottsen can locate those two pitches he may be virtually unhittable.

Altogether, there are about 11 pitchers competing for 5-6 consistent pitching spots on the team. Other than DJ Stewart and Connor Dolan, those spots are all pretty much up for grabs. Another place with a lot of question marks is the outfield. Senior Logan Sells is the only returning outfielder who had over 30 at bats last season. Sells performed very well last year, hitting for a .361 average and adding double digit RBI’s. Sells is a talented fielder as well. His speed is enough to chase down fly balls in the gap, and he has plenty of arm strength to throw out runners on the basepaths as well. Sells seems likely to move from corner outfield to center this year, however, so the other outfield spots are up for grabs.

Even with all these places to replace in the outfield and pitching rotation, the most gaping hole is replacing Jake Matheny behind the plate. Matheny won Gatorade Player of the Year last season in the state of Missouri, with his phenomenal 11 HR and 43 RBI season. The job of filling in his spot on the field falls on the shoulders of sophomore, Jimmy Obertop. Jimmy could not be better prepared to fill in Matheny’s spot, having hit in the 3 hole on last years JV team, and then being the first freshman called up to Varsity since Shane Benes. Obertop already has an impressive resume after just one year in the Westminster program. Jimmy is a star defensively at the Catcher position, where he picked off a plethora of runners from behind the plate last season, no matter what base they were on. Jimmy has also impressed so far at the plate in practice, having hit a ball off the top of the scoreboard at the Westminster field.
Although this year’s team needs to replace 6 starters (including a Gatorade Player of the Year) from last season, they are confident they have the ability to carry themselves all the way to the State Championship. The team is determined to put a 5th ring on Coach Van Gilst’s hand in his final season, so that Veege can ride off into the sunset as a champion.