A Year Closer, Crusaders Primed for 2016 Season

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Capital University baseball team is mere hours from tossing the first pitch of its season. They have the arms, the bats, the gloves, and now another year of experience with a young roster to make the move up the ladder in the Ohio Athletic Conference standings. The Crusaders open their season this weekend at the RussMatt Invitational with eight games over the course of the next week to prepare for a 38-game schedule.

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Junior third baseman Logan Bastin (Mansfield, Ohio) will be a key piece to Capital's success this season, both in the field and at the plate. Bastin finished last season with a batting average of .371, hit two home runs, recorded 11 doubles, tallied a team-best 32 RBIs, and had three stolen bases. Bastin, who is considered an MLB draft prospect, will shift from shortstop to third base this year with hopes that a change to his more natural position will help decrease his error count after committing 20 last year. 

The lone senior catcher Kirby Boehm will be the relied heavily and will provide the pitching staff with leadership from behind the plate. In his previous three seasons, he has played in 80 games for the Crusaders and has recorded 380 putouts. He is hitting .261 for his career while driving in 23 RBIs, has 60 hits, and has scored 23 runs.

Another key player will be catcher/designated hitter, Justin Ennis led the team with a .380 batting average. Ennis finished last season with 20 RBIs, which tied him with two others for second on the team. He will provide a familiar target behind the dish for the Crusaders' four returning starting pitchers.

The returns of sophomores Zackary Ary (London, Ohio) and Alexander Smith (Elk Grove, Calif.) will solidify two of the three outfield positions. Ary finished with a top-five batting average for Capital, hitting at a .322 clip with four extra-base hits and nine RBIs. Smith will look to repeat as a corner outfielder and improve upon his .267 batting average from last year. Between the two players, they both posted fielding percentages above .910 and were a perfect 7-for-7 on the base paths. Perhaps their most important component in the outfield will be junior Jake Foley (Pataskala, Ohio/Licking Heights), who hit .301, posted a .988 fielding percentage, had 77 putouts, and was 13-for-15 in stolen base attempts.

Capital is excited to establish stability in its middle infield positions. Junior Joe Swisher (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville Central) will settle down into the shortstop position while Brett Colburn (Liberty Township, Ohio/Lakota East) will be the favorite to be the starting second baseman. Colburn hit .364, third on the team, with eight doubles and 18 RBIs, last season.

Junior pitcher Shane Wellman (Moundsville, W. Va.) has shaped up to be the ace of the pitching staff. Wellman pitched 43 innings and struck out 34 while walking 16, last season. He knocked down his earned run average from 5.14 to 4.19, and is primed to see the trend continue as he contends to be a top pitcher in the conference.

Brendon Borkey (Kirtland Hills, Ohio) will serve as a solid compliment to Wellman on the mound and could compete for a dramatic increase in innings. Last season he finished with an ERA of 3.00, which led the team. Brendon finished second on the team with 32 strikeouts. Jacob Sheaf (Cincinnati, Ohio) will also serve as a top starting pitcher for the Crusaders. Last season he led the team in innings pitched with 47.1. He struck out 30 hitters last season, however, he walked 27. The staff of Sheaf, B. Borkey has potential to surprise OAC opponents this year, despite a season-ending injury to junior Luke Veldman.

The bullpen will rely on Joseph Borkey (Kirtland Hills, Ohio) and Casey Hamrick (Westerville, Ohio/Worthington Christian). Last season J. Borkey and Hamrick combined for 22 appearances out of the pen.

Seventh-year head coach Ryan Grice is looking forward to this upcoming season. "We have a lot of guys with experience returning, including four starting pitchers," said Grice. "We are pretty excited with the returning class and expectations are high." Capital is returning 34 players from last year's team, while adding 13 freshmen to the roster.

Capital will open its season this weekend when it begins its week-long stay at the RussMatt Invitational, held in Central Florida. The Crusaders open with a doubleheader against Lyndon State University on Saturday, Feb. 27 and will play eight games in eight days while visiting The Sunshine State.

Click here for more information on the RussMatt Invitational.