Ada — The East Central University baseball team has been retooled and is ready for the 2014 season. The Tigers have 23 newcomers on the roster and just nine returners from a season ago.
“We had to retool after last year,” said head coach Dino Rosato. “I am pleased with my assistant coaches, Montgomery, Schmidt, & Mistler, for their efforts when it came to recruiting and facilities management in the off season. We have put together a solid group of young men after losing so many seniors to graduation a year ago.”
ECU will have a lot to prove, as the Tigers were picked to finish 11th (13 points) in the 2014 Great American Conference Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.
Southern Arkansas was a clear top choice with 100 points and 10-of-11 first-place votes. Arkansas Tech was the only other team to receive a first-place vote, finishing second with 88 points.
Southwestern Oklahoma State was picked third (78 points), Arkansas-Monticello fourth (63), Henderson State fifth (61), Harding sixth (55), Ouachita Baptist seventh (50), Southeastern Oklahoma state eighth (46), Northwestern Oklahoma State ninth (25) and Southern Nazarene 10th (19).
The new look for the team does include nine returners, which includes three pitchers and six fielders. Senior Robert Buitrago leads the group of returning pitchers for the Tigers, finishing 2013 with a 5.50 ERA, 31 strikeouts and a 1-8 record.
“We have one returner on the mound in Robert Buitrago,” Rosato stated. “He has done a fantastic job for us the past two years. He has shown tremendous growth as a leader on and off the field. I am expecting big things from Robert on the mound this year.”
Besides Buitrago, ECU also returns Levi Keeton and Robert Cave to the mound. Both saw limited action in 2013, with Cave appearing in 10 games and Keeton just five.
The Tigers focused on pitching for the 2014 recruits, adding nine to the squad. Alex Barnes, Icezack Flemming, Oscar Gomez, Lucas Kaplan, Cam McKay, Merrick Ardoin, Mike Andrade, Matt Fitzgerald, and Jake Wellington are all expected to see time on the mound for ECU.