Injuries to the pitching staff and offensive struggles hurt Blinn College baseball as the team fell just short of qualifying for the Region XIV Tournament in 2016.
"We felt that going in to 2016 that we really had a good team," said Harvey McIntyre, Blinn head coach. "We just lost a lot of our pitching staff to injuries and weren't able to cover it up."
Blinn loaded up on pitching depth over the offseason and added a talented offensive group to add to 11 players returning for the Buccaneers.
"After 2016, I learned that you just can take winning for granted, and the players that were here last year understand how hard it is to win," McIntyre said.
With its roster in 2017, Blinn is not only gunning for a return to the regional tournament but McIntyre believes the Buccaneers have the talent to contend for the title. The returning players in 2017 were thrown into big spots on the field a year ago, and that experience is expected to help the team.
Returning second baseman Jay Anderson (Humble) tied for the team lead in at-bats (186) and collected 54 hits on his way to a .290 batting average. Anderson has emerged as a leader in his sophomore season. Angel De La Fuente (Klein) is also taken a leadership role this season after playing first base in 2016, hitting nine home runs and knocking in 35.
Sam McElreath (Brenham) played third base in his freshman season and knocked in 24 runs. McElreath had a productive fall season and will see time at third base, first base, and even catcher. Trent Murphy (Richmond) led Blinn in home runs (11) while battling injury issues his freshman season and also has taken on a leadership role.
Texas Christian signee Colton Parrish (La Vernia) played at catcher during his freshman season, but may see time in the outfield in 2017. Daniel Anciso (Harlingen) provided catching depth last year and has become more physical in his sophomore season.
Aside from the injury issues on the mound last year, Blinn's pitching staff gained valuable experience on the mound. Cody Moos (Castroville) pitched 26 1-3 innings last year and has worked on harnessing his control during the offseason. Cody LeCompte (Cypress) pitched just over nine innings in 2016 and has shown great improvement during the fall season.
Kyle Gray (Austin) had Tommy John surgery last year and has worked hard to get back into pitching shape. Garrett Alexander (Klein) has come back from two knee surgeries to be a pitching presence on the back end of the rotation. Weston Brown (Cypress) has also overcome injuries to contribute innings on the mound.
Blinn coaches recruited pitching depth in incoming freshman and transfers. Evan Mata (Midland) has a great sinker and curveball, and Will Floyd (Fort Worth) transferred from Hill College and is coming off a shoulder injury. Johnny Rizer (Cypress) will be valuable in the outfield and on the mound, Zach Smith (Katy) has three solid, and Sammy Pleus (Sugar Land) is a left-handed arm with a smooth throwing motion.
Cody Collins (Bryan) has a good splitter and can attack the zone, and Cody Van Cleave (Cypress) is a consistent pitcher. Chris Okeke (Missouri City) can reach high velocities on the mound and Andrew Morgan (Klein) can attack the strike zone.
The Buccaneers will expect their incoming players to have an impact on the field and at the plate. Marshall Skinner (Cypress) takes pride of being a good catcher and Brandon Ashy (Cypress) works hard at being a solid catcher and has the speed to be a threat on the base paths.
In the infield, Mason Michalec (Boerne) could see time at third base and can start up a double play as fast as anyone on the team. Connor Whitaker (Friendswood) is a versatile infielder that can play at second or third.
Shortstop Tyler Fowler (Cleburne) is a transfer from Texas Tech and is a solid switch-hitter while Esteban Pena (La Joya) is solid in the field and has speed on the base paths. Koby Collins (Sugar Land) is a very talented infielder that has strength at the plate.
In the outfield, the incoming players are expected to contribute. Drew Ardoin (Lake Charles, La.) is a top-of-the-order player, Hunter Trinidad (San Antonio) is an athletic player who can get on base, and Richard Bailey (Houston) brings talent in the outfield and at the plate. Caleb Morris (Spring) is a physical player who transferred from the University of Houston and Anthony Jones (Missouri City) is coming off a solid season at Cisco College last year.
"I like our group, but it starts at the top with the players that have taken on a leadership role," McIntyre said.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 34 NJCAA national championships since 1987. For more information, visit www.buccaneersports.com.
About Blinn College
With an enrollment of 19,422 students, Blinn ranks among the nation's leaders in transferring students to leading four-year universities and has received national recognition for affordable educational excellence. For more information, visit www.blinn.edu.