The Blinn Buccaneers will forge a brand-new identity in 2013 after sending 11 sophomores on to four-year baseball programs and another to the pros in 2012.
As the Buccaneers aim for their first Junior College World Series appearance since 1992, they will lean heavily upon a sophomore class of 16 players, including four who have already signed to play for four-year schools after this season ends.
"At the end of every Fall you try to make the pieces of the puzzle fit and create an identity. Right now, our identity may be that were pretty good in all three phases," said Harvey McIntyre, who enters his sixth season as the Buccaneers' head coach. "In 2012, they were going to pitch and play defense – you knew that going in. I don't know if we have an identity yet this year. I don't think we're going to be head and heels above everybody else in one particular area, but I think we're going to be pretty good across the board. Looking ahead, if we click offensively, I think we can be very, very productive."
Sophomore right-hander Tyler Cobb will lead the new-look Buccaneer pitching staff into 2013. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound sophomore went 1-1 with three saves in 19 2/3 innings last season. He posted a 3.66 ERA with 23 strikeouts and has signed with the University of Houston.
"We've got to have big things from him," McIntyre said. "He should win plenty of games for us with his ability – we're going to count on him to be a shutdown arm."
Sophomore right-hander Blake Whitter transferred to Blinn from Texas State. The Kingwood product went 8-2 with a 2.30 ERA his senior year of high school, earning district MVP, all-Houston and second-team all-state honors.
"He commands the strike zone with plus stuff and he's got four quality pitches," McIntyre said. "He has a chance to be really, really good."
Robert Dickey, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound freshman, comes to Blinn from Austin Bowie High School, where he earned first-team all-district honors in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"He has a chance to be an impact arm for us as a freshman," McIntyre said.
Sophomore right-hander Karl Malecek (Argyle) returns after he went 1-3 with a 5.10 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 30 innings last season. He has signed with the University of British Columbia.
"He's put it all together for us," McIntyre said. "He's got everything in the bag that's going to make him successful."
Freshman left-hander Ryan Bielitz (The Woodlands) transferred to Blinn from Texas Tech and will also compete for a job as a conference starter.
Freshman left-hander Weston Wick (La Grange) had a very good Fall, freshman right-hander Tyler Day (San Antonio Johnson) has shown the ability to attack the strike zone and be a consistent performer, sophomore left-hander Kyle Mueller (Bellville) has made huge strides and could be used in the back end of games, freshman right-hander Jacob Murray (Silsbee) could be used in the bullpen, freshman right-hander Dillon Becker (Bastrop) has power stuff with a plus slider, sophomore left-hander Michael Vielma (Medina Valley) can be very affective from the left side, sophomore right-hander Trent Rape (Waller), made great strides in his post fall bullpens and could also compete for a starting role and freshman left-hander Cole Doherty (Round Rock) rounds out the staff.
"I think we're going to be just as deep as we've ever been on the mound," McIntyre said.
The Buccaneers will enter the season with plenty of depth at catcher, with five players ready to suit up behind the plate. Sophomore Holden Cammack (Grapevine), who has signed with Coastal Carolina University, returns after batting .255 with two doubles and 16 RBIs in 94 at-bats as a freshman.
Redshirt freshman Taylor Galvan (Clear Springs) also returns, while the Buccaneers added freshmen Brandon Montalvo (Langham Creek), Brandon Klotz (Cypress Creek) and Trey Robins (Round Rock) to the depth chart.
"All of them honestly do something to help us win," McIntyre said. "Cammack is a sophomore returner who's going to be a guy we're counting on. Brandon Montalvo has made defensive strides from day one and Brandon Klotz has the chance to be offensive. Taylor Galvan keeps balls in front of him and plays catch with the middle infielders and Trey has shown the ability to have quality at bats .They all bring tools to the table."
Freshman Cullen Gassaway will take over at first base while batting in the middle of the Buccaneers' lineup. At L.D. Bell, Gassaway batted .370 with 25 RBIs his senior season.
"I need to check his birth certificate because he doesn't play like a freshman," McIntyre said. "He will hit in the middle of our order and will probably have a chance to lead our team in RBIs. If he does what he's shown this Fall, he's going to be a special player."
Cobb and Vielma will back up Gassaway.
"Taylor Cobb is going to swing the bat for us," McIntyre said. "He has a chance to be our bus driver in the middle of the order."
Freshman Colin Fry (Bryan) moved from the outfield to second base during the Fall.
"He can really run and he's really made some strides offensively," McIntyre said. "He can put pressure on people because of his speed."
Sophomore Quinton Evans (Orangefield), who hit .265 with six doubles, a triple, one home run and 11 RBIs in 83 at-bats last season, can play second in addition to third base, and sophomore Robert Garza (McAllen), who transferred to Blinn from the University of Texas-Brownsville, will also be in the mix at second base.
Sophomore shortstop Josh Garza (San Antonio Reagan) returns after batting .183 with nine RBIs and eight runs scored in 93 at-bats last season.
"He has made strides offensively and has become a hitter who can handle the bat a bit," McIntyre said. "He has really grown up and become the captain of the infield."
Robert Garza will be able to play all 3 infield spots and create depth.
Sophomore Kevin Santana (Cypress Fairbanks), a transfer from McNeese State, provides the Buccaneers with another middle-of-the-order bat at third base.
"There won't be many teams that we play where we'll run into a more talented player than Kevin," McIntyre said. "He's got strength, speed, arm strength, power – he just has to put it together and play the game."
Evans will be the backup third baseman.
In the outfield, the Buccaneers will see Tyler Coker (Atascocita), a transfer from Oral Roberts University, in center field, sophomore Colin Kowal (Austin Anderson) in left and sophomore Hayden Vesely (St. Joseph's) in right. Sophomore J.C. Neighbors (Clear Springs) can play all three outfield positions, while the Bucs recruited a trio of talented freshmen outfielders in Zach McCown (Frisco Centennial), Nolan Brown (Colleyville Heritage) and Scott Jones (A&M Consolidated).
"It's probably the most athletic outfield we've had since I've been here," McIntyre said. "You watch them run around and do outfield drills and they are blessed athletically."
Blinn's season opens Tuesday with a 3 p.m. double-header against Temple College at Leroy Dreyer Field.