Stephen F Austin 2009 Preview: Starting Pitching

Erik Gregersen was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2008 MLB Draft, but returns to lead this years Lumberjack rotation.
Erik Gregersen was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2008 MLB Draft, but returns to lead this year's Lumberjack rotation.

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – One of the first acts Johnny Cardenas had as head coach was to find a pitching coach to help incorporate a more aggressive mindset into the pitching staff, and he found just that in Weatherford College pitching coach Chad Massengale. He inherits a staff that will be carried by a pair of seniors at the top of the starting rotation in Erik Gregersen and Erich Lehmann.

Gregersen showed flashes of dominance in 2008, tying for the team lead with 62 strikeouts and picked up his first two career wins as he made the transition from the bullpen to a weekend starter as the year progressed. His 90-mph fastball, deceptive slider and projectable 6-5 frame helped him become a 36th round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds before deciding to return to SFA for his senior year.

Lehmann won 17 games in his first two seasons, but struggled out of the gate last year, finishing with only one win. He was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen where he quickly regained form, putting up a 3.49 ERA in 11 appearances in relief, including a pair of saves. The all-time leader at SFA in both career wins, he is one of only two SFA pitchers with 200 strikeouts for a career and needs only 20 more strikeouts to move past Sean Wood for the all-time strikeout title for the ‘Jacks.

“Lehmann and Gregersen will almost certainly be the catalysts for our season,” Cardenas said. “Both of those guys, as seniors, have had success before and we need them to be at their best this year. If those two guys pitch well, we’ll be good.”

Those two will be joined by freshman Wichita Falls freshman Brett Rogers on the weekends. The right-hander was a standout at Rider High School, where he struck out 99 hitters and only walked seven in 67.1 innings of work as a senior. His has command of his three-pitch repertoire and was one of the pleasant surprises of fall camp.

“Rogers showed a lot of promise in the fall, enough so that we feel confident putting him as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter,” Cardenas said.

The ‘Jacks can also throw out a number of other starters, including senior Jared Schrom who had an outstanding sophomore campaign and posted a 3.75 ERA in 2008 before going down with an injury.

Sophomores Jeremy Tamez had a solid freshman season, proving himself to have a tough mentality on the mound and even earned four starts in his first season. He, along with Jared West, bring a year of experience under their belt and will be joined by Zack Taylor and Tanner Sprinkle as other possible starters, likely on midweek games.

The Lumberjacks open up the 2009 season on Feb. 21 against Mississippi Valley State at the ULM Warhawk Classic in Monroe, La. before opening up the home part of the season on Feb. 24 against Houston at the newly-renovated Jaycees Field.