Feb. 25, 2008
The First Pitch: The Bulldogs kick off the 2008 season this weekend when they head to Lexington, Ky., for a four-game series against Kentucky. The two teams open up with a 4:00 p.m. game on Friday (Feb. 29), play a twin-bill on Saturday (March 1) at 12:00 and wrap up the swing with a 1:00 p.m. contest on Sunday (March 2).
Previewing The Bulldogs: If pitching is truly the key to winning championships in baseball, then the 2008 Bulldogs could be playing late into the spring. Butler's entire starting rotation and almost every one of the relievers will be back in uniform this season, and an influx of rookie arms could make the Bulldogs' staff one of the best in the Horizon League. Senior right-hander Jon Dages returns as the Bulldogs' ace for the second season in a row after finishing ranked among the Horizon League's best in six categories, including a league second-best 3.40 ERA. Senior southpaw Bryan Bokowy, senior righty Brian Deter and junior right-hander Ryan Kruszka round out the bevy of experienced arms in the Butler arsenal. Despite several key losses from last spring, the Butler position players put together a strong fall season, but injuries to several starters during the summer months hindered the coaching staff's ability to get a feel for a true lineup. Shortstop will be one of the few positions that won't be up for much debate, as senior Joe Pauley, the team's top returning hitter from 2007, holds down the spot after batting .324 with a team-best 68 hits and 41 runs scored last season. Senior first baseman Ryan Neat adds steady hands at the right corner of the infield, while sophomore Bobby Mosser and freshman Grant Fillipitch earning preseason nods at second and third, respectively. The veteran outfield corps of senior Nate Hart and juniors Rick Betsch and Colin Ziegel give the Bulldogs consistent hitting in the lineup and speed in the field, while junior Alex Montagano is Butler's top option behind the plate. Head coach Steve Farley, the winningest baseball coach in school history, is 415-461-1 in his 17th season with the Bulldogs.
Pitching In: The Bulldogs return 12 of their 14 pitchers who saw action last season, accounting for 448.1 of the 476 innings pitched in 2007. Butler finished second in the Horizon League with a 4.78 team ERA and with 170 walks allowed.
Dages Takes The Lead: Right-hander Jon Dages enters his senior season as the team's ace after logging a team-best 98.0 innings during the 2007 campaign. One of the top pitchers in the Horizon League last year, he ranked in the top-10 in the conference in six categories, including starts (16), ERA (3.40), strikeouts (62) and innings pitched (98.0). He can become Butler's all-time leader in career innings pitched (309.1) with 91.1 innings this season.
Not Your Average Joe: Senior shortstop Joe Pauley is Butler's top returning hitter after batting .324 with a team-leading 68 hits, 41 runs, 11 doubles and 96 total bases in 2007. He was the Horizon League's Player of the Week on April 2 and was the only Butler player to see action in all 55 games last season. An all-league first team member as a sophomore and all-league second team honoree as a freshman, he is 47 runs away from becoming Butler's all-time runs leader (150).
All-American: Junior infielder Jason Jamerson returns after earning Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America honors in 2007. He batted .273 with 18 runs scored and 17 RBI after transferring to Butler from Ball State before last season.
Captain Neat: Senior infielder Ryan Neat was unanimously selected by a vote of the players as the Bulldogs' team captain for the 2008 season. Neat finished last season with a .281 batting average, 14 runs scored and 18 walks.
A Professional Touch: The Butler baseball team's 2008 schedule features a professional touch, as the Bulldogs take on cross-town foe Marian at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. Victory Field serves as the home of the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 12,500 seat stadium has been heralded as the "Best Minor League Ballpark in America" by both Baseball America and Sports Illustrated. Amateur baseball is nothing new to the facility, as the field has played host to the 2005 Horizon League Baseball Championship.
Major League Calling: Former Butler pitcher Pat Neshek continued to thrive with the Minnesota Twins in his second year at the MLB level in 2007. He finished with a 7-2 record, a 2.94 ERA, 74 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 70.1 innings of work and was one of five players named to the Final Vote Ballot for the All Star Game in just his first full season. Neshek, a three-year letterwinner with the Bulldogs, holds school records for strikeouts in a game (18), season (118) and career (280).
Sign Here: Departed Bulldogs Dustin Bucalo and Joe Dempsey each continued their playing careers in the professional ranks following the 2007 season. Bucalo signed with the Oneida Barge Bucs of the New York State League, while Dempsey joined the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association.
Milestones Ahead For Farley: The 2008 season will be one of milestones for head coach Steve Farley, who enters his 17th season with the Bulldogs and his 20th as a collegiate head coach. In his 19 years on the bench, Farley has been a part of 977 ball games and will coach in his 1,000th just 23 games into the upcoming campaign. Meanwhile, with 468 career coaching victories to his credit, he could very well be celebrating his 500th win by the end of the spring. After notching his 400th victory at the school just last season, Farley stands as the program's most successful mentor with 415 Butler wins under his belt.
On Deck: The Bulldogs make a stop in Dayton, Ohio on March 5 to face Dayton beginning at 2:00 p.m. Butler then heads south to Murray, Ky., for a three-game set at Murray State from March 8-9.