Feb. 5, 2012
SEATTLE - The 2012 college baseball season is right around the corner as teams across the nation begin playing on Friday, Feb. 17.
The Huskies, under third-year head coach Lindsay Meggs, open the campaign with a three-game series at San Diego State Feb. 17-19. The following Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Dawgs open the home slate with a game against Seattle University at Husky Ballpark.
The first weekend home series for the UW is March 2-4 vs. St. Joseph's, and Pac-12 Conference play begins with a three-game set vs. Oregon at Husky Ballpark March 16-18.
Over the next week or so, we'll preview the 2012 Husky baseball team. In this first edition, here's a look at the pitching staff:
2012 Husky Pitching Staff (alphabetical order):
LHP Mac Acker
RHP George Asmus
RHP Jeff Brigham
RHP Adam Cimber
LHP Jacob Coats
RHP Tyler Davis
RHP Jared Fisher
RHP Joshua Fredendall
RHP Tyler Kane
RHP Dae Yang Kim
RHP Nick Palewicz
RHP Steven Swift
RHP Austin Voth
RHP Aaron West
RHP Zach Wright
RHP Keith Zuniga
The list above makes one thing clear: the Husky pitching staff is large and deep. And while there are nine names there who are completely new to the UW program, six of the seven returners are pitchers who not only have experience at this level, but have a history of having performed well.
Every college coach wants to settle on weekend rotation as soon as they can. The non-conference season gives a coach the chance to see who can do what and to try and get things settled before the conference season begins.
That said, Coach Meggs says that, at least entering the season, he's identified several top candidates for those weekend starting spots.
"Right now, the obvious candidates for us on the weekend are Mac Acker, George Asmus, Austin Voth and Steven Swift," Meggs explains. "All of that is basically contingent upon Jeff Brigham, who is struggling with an injury right now. If he is healthy then those five guys are candidates for the three weekend spots."
Three of those five are new to the team: Acker, Asmus and Swift, all junior college transfers while Voth and Brigham are returning sophomores.
"Mac is a lefty power arm," Meggs says of Acker, who was the Northwest junior college MVP last year. "He can be up to 92 miles per hour. He is a great competitor and athlete. You could argue that he could possibly be our best outfielder. He as a pro arm and that is where his future is and the mound is where we need him most. He is the prototypical power arm who challenges hitters. Is he a Friday-type guy? We don't know that yet, but he is a weekend starter."
Asmus, who was drafted by the Cubs last June, comes to the UW from Ohlone College in northern California.
"George is a notch back in terms of velocity; he is 90-91, and he has three pitches for strikes that he really knows how to pitch," says Meggs. "Where Mac is a complete competitor and sometimes shoots first asks questions later where George is more methodical and can pitch backwards. He would be great on Saturday."
As a freshman in 2011, Voth quickly established himself in the UW rotation, leading the staff with 13 starts last year. He went on to a tremendous summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
"Austin Voth has had some growth from last year," Meggs says. "He had a great summer. He played in the Cape Cod All-Star Game and hit 94 on the radar gun. The beauty of the depth we have on the mound this year is a guy like Austin can go out there and let it all hang out for 5 or 6 innings and not have to pace himself because we have some depth at the back end of the bullpen.
"With that in mind," Meggs continues, "Austin is going to try to throw that fast ball in the low 90s and improve his slider, and that in my opinion is a Saturday, Sunday candidate."
Swift went 11-0 with a 0.97 earned run average at Diablo Valley College last year.
" Swift is kind of a wild card," says Meggs. "He throws four pitches for strikes, throws just hard enough to stay out of trouble, pitches backwards, and is totally unorthodox. He will throw the breaking ball, throw the slider, he will throw the sinker and has a good change. He is a guy who, depending upon who you are playing, can match up."
If ready to go, Brigham provides another solid option. Last season as a freshman, he spent time as a starter and reliever, making 18 bullpen appearances and five starts to post a 4-1 record, two saves and a 4.73 ERA.
Those five aside, there will still be plenty of competition among many of the remaining pitchers for innings out of the bullpen. For the past two years, one of the most oft-used relievers has been right-handed submariner Adam Cimber. The Huskies' depth in 2012 could give Meggs the opportunity to better refine Cimber's role.
"The one concern was the back end of the game," Meggs explains, speaking of past seasons. "We always felt like for two years we had to use Adam Cimber in a role he wasn't designed to be in, which was to go out and have to repeat a second inning or a third inning."
While Cimber will still play a prominent role, he should have some more help, including JC transfer Joshua Fredendall and redshirt-sophomore Nick Palewicz, who has yet to pitch for the Huskies the last two years while recovering from injury.
"Nick has emerged after two years after being hurt," says Meggs. "He had a great summer - throwing as hard as 95-96 at times - and for one inning could go out there and compete with that fastball all by itself.
"We brought in a kid from the college of San Mateo," Meggs continues, referring to Fredendall, "who, while Swift lead the state of California at the junior college level, was second. Joshua was the leading closer for the College of San Mateo. Josh, in a perfect role, would fill the ninth inning, with Palewicz going in the seventh or the eighth. That we know is what we want to do at the end of the game."
Two other returning pitchers are fourth-year junior righty Aaron West and sophomore RHP Zach Wright. West is a strike-thrower who started 12 games at the UW last spring and then posted an amazing summer season with the Humboldt Crabs, going 7-0 with a near-perfect 0.17 ERA. Wright pitched in 17 games last year, posting a team-best 2.43 earned run average in his freshman campaign.
"West and Wright will battle for that midweek spot in terms of starting," says Meggs, "or help us out of the bullpen in the middle of the game for a short amount of time."
The final returning pitcher is Tyler Kane, a sophomore righty who led the Huskies with 25 appearances in 2011 and also had a standout summer.
"Kane is somebody who can come in and throw strikes in the innings in the middle of the game," Meggs says.
A handful of younger pitchers will also compete for time this year, but also share a bright future down the line. Jared Fisher and Tyler Davis are both true freshmen while Dae Yang Kim and Keith Zuniga are both junior college transfers who both enter the UW as sophomores. All of the four could profile as starters down the line and each of them will have a chance to compete for innings this spring.
Finally, lefty Jacob Coats is continuing to progress from an injury that has limited him over the last year. Meggs, who says that he'd hoped that Coats would compete for weekend innings, hopes that he might be able to return to action late in the non-conference season or early in Pac-12 play.