Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann didn’t hesitate when he was asked what the strength of his 2016 squad would be.
“Pitching will be the strength for us,” he said.
After finishing sixth in the DI North last season, the Cougs will look for senior ace Ryan Anderson to carry the brunt of the load. Anderson, a lanky 6-6 southpaw, is committed to pitch for Nevada next year.
“Ryan Anderson will be solid, we’re expecting a lot from him,” Hofmann said. “I think a lot of times as your No. 1 goes, your season goes. He can be very, very good and I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Behind Anderson on the bump, Spanish Springs will need to replace first-team all-league third baseman Ricky Espinoza and first-team all-league second baseman Kyle Messer. Jake Prizina, a first-team pitcher/outfielder, also graduated. He’s now playing Div. I ball at Seattle University.
- 2015 record: 17-12, 13-9 DI North No. 6
- Playoffs: 8-5 L to Reed in first round of loser’s bracket
- Key returners: Ryan Anderson, Josh Prizina, Joey Arterburn, Alan Lummel, Carson McCusker, Noah Parks
- Key losses: Jake Prizina, Kyle Messer, Ricky Espinoza, Ryan Raymond
Breaking in for the Cougs will be freshman shortstop Connor Culp as well as a pair of junior outfielders Chase Lee and Colton Forman.
Hofmann said defense is the area his team must hone in on over the course of the spring.
“We have to improve defensively,” Hofmann said. “It’s pitching and defense that will really carry a team through a season. It’s a fairly short season, a lot of games in a short amount of time, so we’ve got to be better defensively and we have to throw strikes. If we can do those two things, we’ll be competitive.”
Alan Lummel and Joey Arterburn will be two of the regular names that Hofmann will count on to throw strikes, along with Anderson.
Offensively, the Cougs enter with a number of question marks. Junior second-team first baseman Josh Prizina and senior honorable mention outfielder Carson McCusker return, but outside of those two, several roles remain to be determined.
“We’ve got some guys that have to prove themselves,” Hofmann said. “We lost some bats last year so we got some guys that have to prove themselves. We’re pretty good hitters I think. Josh (Prizina) will be one of those guys that will be right there in the mix. We need some guys hitting around him so he sees some pitches.”
The team has taken advantage of the above average temperatures the last week by practicing outside so it hasn’t used a day to go inside and talk about team goals for the season, but Hofmann said the end game remains the same year in and year out.
“We always have the goal of getting into the playoffs, doing our best to win league and then win regionals,” Hofmann said. “That’s standard for us.”
The Cougs will open their season on Thursday at Wooster against Central Catholic (Modesto, Calif.) in their first game of the annual Mike Bearman Memorial Tournament. First pitch is at 1 p.m.