Written by Brian Ehresman. Media by Wes O’Dell
As the warm, spring weather quickly approaches (we are all praying), it is almost time to lock up the gym and break out the bats. The Greenville College Baseball team will be soon be taking its annual spring break trip to central Florida, where the team is looking for more than just some fun in the sun. The Panthers are coming off a second place finish in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (SLIAC) last season, and would like to take the next step up the conference ladder. “We want to take the next step from what we did last year, which would be to win the conference tournament,” said junior pitcher C.J. Opp. Doing so will require GC to dethrone eight-time defending champion Webster, who is the pre-season favorite for 2015 as well.
Expectations are high for Greenville, who was picked 3rd in the preseason conference coach’s poll, behind Webster and 2nd place Spalding. The Panthers return nine starters from a team that reached the championship of the conference tournament. “We’re returning a lot of guys that have a lot of valuable experience both offensively and on the pitching staff. When you add our new guys with our returner’s, there’s a lot to be excited about,” exclaimed Opp.
Leading the offense will be a trio of returning all-conference players Tim Osborne, Trevor Montgomery, and Jared Storment. Osborne, a junior, was 2nd team all-conference and hit 12 homeruns to go along with 52 runs batted in a season ago, while Montgomery, also a junior, was a 1st team all-conference catcher who hit .388. Storment is a senior first baseman who belted eight homeruns and 34 RBI on his way to 2nd team all-conference honors.
While the offense will look to smash the ball out of the ballpark, the GC pitchers will work to keep opponents’ batters in the dugout. The Panthers’ starting rotation will be led by returning lefties Tyler Pilcher and C.J. Opp, who combined to only give up four homeruns all of last season. Pilcher, a senior, had an outstanding ERA of 3.53 a season ago, while Opp limited batters to only 16 walks. The pitching staff will be also be bolstered by the addition of Westminster transfer Ryan Strohm. If opponents get behind on the scoreboard against Greenville, they will have trouble coming back and scoring against their dynamite bullpen anchored by senior Michael Wittmer and junior Nick Bifano. Wittmer shut down opposing hitters with a 2.90 ERA, while Bifano closed 11 games to lead the SLIAC and garner second-team all-conference honors.
This GC baseball team has tasted success, but it continues to look for more as the 2015 season gets underway. “While we are happy with what we accomplished last year, our goal is to get a SLIAC tournament title for Greenville College, and a NCAA Regional berth,” stated Opp. The building blocks seem well in place for the Panthers to achieve their goals this season and reach new heights. Make sure to check out the GC Baseball team when the team returns to their home field with their conference opener against Spalding on March 21st!