With this week came the official start of the college baseball season, and a chance for me to sit down with Western Kentucky’s new head coach, Matt Myers. This will be Myers’ fifth season with WKU, after spending two years each as assistant coach and associate head coach. When asked about the transition, Myers seemed to have a very good idea of what was needed for the program. “From the baseball standpoint, it’s been a really smooth transition,” said Myers. “How we’re playing? The style of play has changed a little bit, and I think that’s just the type of personality that I am.”
There has been some speculation on the depth of pitching for WKU this season, but Coach Myers made it very clear that it wasn’t the talent that was missing, it was just the number of pitchers. “We’re used to having 16, 17, 18 pitchers to formulate our group, and now it’s 12… So from a coaching standpoint, you go, “Oh my goodness, we’re one or two injuries away from being thin, thin, thin.” On the player’s side, they’re all going to get opportunities that they may in the past haven’t, so they’re going to get more than they ever thought to help our team. You may be getting some pleasant surprises from guys, because now they’re getting more opportunities and be more consistent. We have enough on the mound; we just can’t afford to lose an arm to an injury.”
Power duo Justin Hageman and Tanner Perkins will be leading the rotation, with Tim Bado coming in as the number three starter. Bado made a strong impression during fall ball, and the coach is very excited to see him throw. Austin Clay also showed an improvement this fall since only throwing two innings last season, and will more than likely be a regular in the rotation. Ross Hammonds and Taylor Hadel will both be seeing quite a few games as well.
As for hitting, Myers is confident, especially with his four starting seniors. Jared Andreoli had a .352 batting average last season, and will be a strong leader in the offense this year as well. After struggling last season, Casey Dykes had a great fall, and is more than ready for the season ahead. Seniors Ryan Hutchison and Ivan Hartle will both be big hitters to watch out for. Scott Wilcox and Steve Hodgins will round out the batting for the Hilltoppers. Sophomore David Simmons was the most improved player this fall, and will be starting more games this year after playing in only 14 games last season, mostly as a pinch runner.
“There isn’t one or two guys that really stand out,” said Coach Myers. “This is a really tight team and I think it’s going to be a team that different guys every day do something for us.”
A goal for the season?
According to Coach Myers, “I want to win two out of every three games.” With a team GPA of 3.0, Myers’ philosophy is to attack their opposition the same way they attack their grades.
“The goals are to win the Sun Belt and go to postseason, and from a coaching standpoint, I want to do the little things that get us there; take care of the home field, take care of the non-conference, and be one of the top teams in our conference when conference play happens.”
Western Kentucky plays its season opener February 17th against Toledo.