GREENVILLE, Ill. -- The 2012 Greenville College Panther Baseball team is coming off of back to back SLIAC conference championship appearances. Last year's squad finished 3rd in the SLIAC with a record of 16-8 in conference play and 19-24 overall. With the conclusion of last season's appearance in the end of year conference tournament, the Panthers have been to a SLIAC record 12 consecutive conference tournaments.
Last year's senior class was extraordinary lead by two 1st Team SLIAC selections, Daniel Covert and Kyle Hobar. Covert settled into the middle of the Panther's order early in the season and had one of the finest offensive season in recent memory hitting a powerful .409 with 7 home runs while driving in 44 RBI's. Covert was also a weekend starter on the mound and struck out nearly a batter an inning. Hobar was a four-year starter for the Panthers up the middle of the infield and had a terrific career finishing 3rd in hits and 5th in walks. Hobar saved his best season for last hitting .362 while scoring 42 runs from the leadoff spot and stabilizing the middle infield.
The Panthers are also forced to replace two other seniors from last year's roster, two-year starter on the corner infield, Justin Hubbard, and the team's most important relief pitcher on last year's team, Wes Letizia. Hubbard hit in the middle of the order and drove in a career best 25 runs while providing invaluable leadership. Letizia was the team's go-to relief pitcher and pitched in the 2nd most games of any Panther pitcher.
The good news for the Panthers is that 6 players return from last year's starting lineup that saw significant time, including 1st Team All SLIAC Utility player David Massengill, who was arguably the team's best pitcher and hitter last year. The Panthers also add to that one of the deepest recruiting classes in recent memory bolstering the roster with 13 new players.
Behind the plate the Panthers welcome back two-year starter Adam Wallace (Shipman, IL). Adam brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Panthers young squad. After being forced into the starting lineup because of injury as a freshman, Wallace has developed into one of the best defensive catchers in the conference. He will be backed up by sophomore Campbell Albert (Warrenville, IL) and freshman Michael Marcotte (Mt. Carmel, IL).
On the infield the Panthers return Ken Trager (Lakewood, CO) a former All Conference performer who hit in the coveted 3rd spot in the batting order. Trager will be backed up by a trio of freshman, Ryan Thiele (Vandalia, IL), Dalton McFarland (Neoga, IL), and Brady Melvin (West Frankfort, IL). The Panthers have immense depth in the middle of the infield with returning junior shortstop Scott Voyles (Crisp, IL) and sophomore Dylan Goldsmith (Nokomis, IL). They will be joined by junior college transfer Jared Massengill (Neoga, IL) and freshman Wyatt Matteson (Greenup, IL). All four have the potential to crack the lineup and produce during the spring.
These players will be backed up by a pair of reliable defensive juniors, Travis Hawkins (Kirkwood, MO) and Juan Mondragon (Desert Hot Springs, CA) who also uses his speed well in the outfield. The Panthers will have to replace their starting first baseman, Justin Hubbard, with a new player this spring. Those capable of handling the duty include senior Ryan Siddle (Belleville, IL), sophomore Hunter Bryan (Fairfield, IL) and freshman Ryan Smith (Affton, MO). Freshman Robbie Campbell (Florissant, MO) has a chance to develop into a good defensive 1st baseman.
The Panthers return two starting outfielders from last year's team, senior centerfielder David Massengill (Neoga, IL) and junior right fielder Cole Lawson (Medora, IL). Both players track the ball well in the outfield and have strong arms. Competing for a spot in left field are a variety of players who offer many good things to the program. These players include sophomores Jared Souhrada (El Paso, IL), Mitchell Cernek (Clinton, WI), Tyler Mitchell (Zeigler, IL), as well as freshman Tyler Pilcher (Effingham, IL), Tyler Whitworth (Mattoon, IL) and Zach Thompson (Patoka, IL). The future looks bright for our underclassmen outfielders as we continue to see improvement and the desire to get better.
Pitching looks to be a strength for Greenville going into this season. The Panthers return five of their top six starters from last year and nearly 70% of last season's work load. Returning at the top of the rotation is senior David Massengill who finished 6th in the SLIAC in both ERA and strikeouts and finished 5th in wins with six. Also returning are four sophomores who pitched quality innings in tough situations last year, Derek Reckmann (Alhambra, IL) who led the team in games started, Cody Hinterscher (Dietrich, IL) who struck out 16 at Principia, Tyler Mitchell who finished the season with the team's lowest ERA at 2.01, and Michael Wittmer (Danvers, IL) who appeared in the most games for the Panthers last year. Coming out of the bullpen will be juniors Scott Voyles and Kyle Boldt (Ashley, IL) who is fully recovered from an injury that kept him out last season, and sophomore Clint Lustig (Teutopolis, IL).
The Panthers also have depth with the continued development coming from freshman Tyler Pilcher, Jake McMullen (Yorba Linda, CA) Sam Kuhnert (Tamaroa, IL) Tyler Corder (Greenup, IL) and Dalton McFarland.
It is going to be an exciting year in the SLIAC with the addition of four new head coaches. Last year's champion, Webster University, who Greenville lost to in the championship game, looks to rebuild after losing the conference player of the year and other numerous contributors. Greenville looks to make it to a record 13th consecutive end of year tournament and win the bid to go the NCAA regional. With a roster that includes only two seniors and returning six position and pitching starters, the 2012 season looks like it could be magical that ends with the hoisting of the championship trophy at the end of the season. Check out the Panthers this spring at Robert E. Smith Field and become part of the excitement building around the Greenville baseball program!