Pacific Tigers Gear Up For Season Opener Friday At Home Against Kansas State
The Pacific Tigers open the 2011 baseball season on Friday with a 6 p.m. first pitch in game one of a three-game set at Klein Family Field against Kansas State.
The Wildcats, who are receiving votes in both the NCBWA and USA Today/ESPN Coaches' preseason polls, are working off a pair of NCAA regional berths the last two seasons. The Tigers and Wildcats series will continue on Saturday at 2 p.m, and on Sunday in an 11 a.m. start.
After an off-season of workouts and intra-squad scrimmages, the Tigers have been hungry for the season-opener.
"The players are chomping at the bit to get going," head coach Ed Sprague said. "I think they have been anxious to play someone besides themselves in intra-squad since January 11 when we came back to campus. It gets a little old to play each other. It's a matter of trying to keep the players enthusiasm level tempered until opening day. I think the team is in a good frame of mind. They'll be ready to go. There might be some nerves come Friday night because we've got a lot of new guys playing."
Drawing the starting assignment in game one is senior Marcus Pointer. The right-hander from Pacifica, Calif., tallied seven wins in 2010 with a 4.58 ERA. In 106 innings last season, the Tigers' workhorse mowed down 65 batters via strikeout and went the distance twice with a pair of complete games.
Opposing him on the hill Friday will be Kansas State lefty Kyle Hunter. The junior southpaw picked up nine wins in 2010 with a 4.59 ERA in 84.1 innings of work. He struck out 58 of 315 batters last season while walking 32.
Taking the bump for Saturday's game two will be junior right-hander John Prato Matthews (Davis, Calif.). Prato Matthews tossed just 9.2 innings last season, striking out seven. On Sunday, the Tigers will send Jake Hummel () to the mound, as the senior right-hander from Peoria, Ariz will look to pick up where he left off in 2010. Last season, Hummel posted seven wins in 93 innings pitched with a 4.65 ERA and 57 strikeouts.
"We're going with Pointer, Prato Matthews and Hummel," Sprague said announcing his rotation. "Obviously, Pointer and Hummel have the most experience from last year. They both won seven games, they both pitched very well. Matthews pitched well at times last year, but has really gained a lot from a confidence standpoint."
Kansas State will counter with righty Matt Applegate on Saturday, who pitched predominantly out of the bullpen last season with one start in 18 appearances, posted a 1-1 record with a 9.58 ERA in 31 innings of work, striking out 27 in 2010.
Lefty Levi Schlick is set to make his Division I debut Sunday for Kansas State after posting a 5-4 record and a 2.11 ERA as a freshman at Barton County Community College. Following 77 strikeouts in 64.0 innings as a freshman, Schlick was drafted in the 39th round by the Chicago White Sox.
"We had a chance to play Kansas State a few years ago. They're a good team, they're very well coached. They play more of a West Coast style than a typical Big 12 team. They play in a tough league just like we do, so we're looking forward to playing them."
Offensively, the Tigers return four position players who posted averages over .300 last season. Senior 1B Brian Martin (Livermore, Calif.) is the Tigers top returning hitter. As a junior last season, Martin hit .364 with a .439 on-base percentage and 38 runs batted in to go with 15 doubles.
Lefty 1B John Haberman (Stockton, Calif.) earned Freshman All-America honors from Louisville Slugger last year with a 321 average and 30 RBI, while junior OF Brett Christopher (Livermore, Calif.) posted a .312 average with five home runs and 39 RBI. Senior OF Matt Carvutto (Poway, Calif.) will look to build off his junior season in which he hit .303 with five doubles and 17 RBI.
Pacific returns 16 letter-winners from last season's 31-23 squad, including six position player starters, two starting pitchers and four relief pitchers.
Sunday's 11 a.m. start will be the first of Pacific's "Salute To The Troops" days at Klein Family Field. The Tigers will don their camouflage uniforms and offer free admission to all members of the military (active or inactive) on each home Sunday date.
"It has been a great way for our program to recognize those who have served our country," Sprague said. "Salute the Troops Sundays continues to be an honor for us to be able to welcome the brave men and women of our community to Klein Family Field."