The Wright State Raiders have won two out of the last three Horizon League tournaments winning the conference tournament in 2011 and 2009. The Raiders went a competitive 36-19 while going 16-7 in Horizon League play. In the conference tournament, they went a perfect 3-0 with a victory over Youngstown State before beating Valparaiso twice to make it to the NCAA Tournament. The Raiders were dominated, though, in the NCAA Tournament, failing to score a run in their two losses to Texas A&M and Arizona.
Wright State head coach Rob Cooper is excited for the upcoming season led by a strong group of seniors. “We return one of our strongest cores since I have been here in Dayton with eight returning players.”
Leading the charge is senior first baseman Jake Hibberd from Miamisburg, Ohio. Last season, he dominated the Horizon League, winning the conference’s triple crown with a .407 batting average, nine homers, and 56 RBI.
The best “pro prospect” in Coach Cooper’s mind is another senior, right fielder Tristan Moore. He will be entering his fourth year after hitting .352 with five homers and 46 RBI last year.
The catching position will see two players split time with senior Corey Davis and junior Garrett Gray fighting for duties. Both players though are expected to start with the other playing in the field or as the DH.
Davis transferred into Wright State for the 2011 season from Mount Hood Community College. He had a fantastic first season with the Raiders, hitting .312 with eight homers and 40 RBI while being named First Team All-Horizon League, Horizon League Newcomer Team, and Horizon League All-Tournament Team. Gray, on the other hand, missed the entire 2011 season with an injury, but he had a solid 2010 season hitting .360 while having a 26-game hitting streak.
The pitching staff is up in the air with senior RHP Michael Schum being the top returnee. He went an outstanding 9-2 with nine saves and an ERA of 1.37 in 29 appearances last season. He ended up finishing fourth on the team in innings pitched with 52.2. The plan right now is to move Schum into the starting rotation to maximize his role.
The other two weekend spots are yet to be decided, with sophomores RHP Joey Hoelzel and Taylor Braun penciled in right now. Hoelzel served as a weekend guy last year going 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in 14 appearances (five starts). Braun worked out of the bullpen in all but one of his 20 appearances. His only start came against Valparaiso in the Horizon League championship game where he let up two runs in 4.1 innings.
They will kick off the season on February 18th when they take on Monmouth at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary NC. In that same weekend, they will face off against Bryant, NC State, and Canisius. The biggest next two weekends see them head to 2011 CWS participants North Carolina and Virginia. Coach Cooper said “I am excited to start the season with this veteran squad that we are bringing back to the field in 2012.”