The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggie baseball to kick off spring practice Friday

Photo by File

Senior shortstop Austin Homan returns as one of the main leaders for an A&M baseball team that enters 2017 with high expectations.

Since the spring semester began, the Texas A&M baseball team has been limited by the NCAA to working with coaches for two hours per week of skill instruction. But on Friday, the Aggies will hold their first practice as a team.
It will mark the beginning of their preparation for the 2017 season, which gets underway with a three-game series against Bowling Green at Olsen Field on February 17. The Aggies made strides during the fall as they broke in a host of new players, but there are still position battles going on that Rob Childress and his coaching staff will have to settle before the Falcons come to College Station next month.
“We’re a work in progress,” Childress said. “The older guys are very eager to teach and the younger guys are ready to learn. We have a new group but we also have a lot of experience. We could play five seniors everyday if we chose to.”
Possibly the biggest position still up for grabs is catcher, where A&M will try to replace outgoing senior Michael Barash, who made a tremendous impact on and off the field in his two years as an Aggie. Freshman Hunter Coleman and junior Cole Bedford are the two contenders to take over behind the plate, both of whom impressed during fall practices and intrasquad scrimmages.
“Cole and Hunter are both probably more talented than Michael but the things that Michael had, Cole and Hunter have to catch up,” assistant coach Justin Seely said.
Coleman, whose dad is the head baseball coach at Midland College, is a solid defensive catcher — a good receiver and blocker — with promising offensive upside, while Bedford possesses a very strong throwing arm and got some valuable experience last season when Barash missed a few games with a concussion.
In addition to Barash, the Aggies also lost five other position players who were pivotal parts of A&M’s wildly successful 49-win 2016 campaign that fell one win short of the College World Series. Filling those shoes is going to be crucial to another strong season, and Childress and the coaching staff have plenty of options at their disposal.
Austin Homan returns as the starting shortstop and, as it stands right now, will be joined up the middle by freshman Braden Shewmake, an impact player with offensive and defensive potential. And George Janca, who began last year as the starting shortstop before being replaced by Homan, appears to be the leading candidate to play third.
In the outfield, Nick Choruby is back in center field and veterans like Blake Kopetsky, Walker Pennington and Joel Davis figure to get plenty of reps at the corners.
One of the nice things about this year’s A&M team is that they have a blend of youth and experience. Depending on how things play out this spring, they could start five seniors or three freshman.
“We have some balance,” Seely said. “We are going to run some freshman out there, but we’re also going to have some older guys to buffer for them so that they can fail a little bit.”
On the mound, the Aggies return a wealth of talent and experience. They did lose Kyle Simonds, who won 11 games last year, as well as their top three relief pitchers, but are still loaded with arms. Brigham Hill projects as their Friday night starter and Turner Larkins should be in the rotation as well.
After that, guys like Mitchell Kilkenny, Stephen Kolek and Corbin Martin will all get opportunities this spring to prove they deserve innings once the season begins.
“Those guys have been through the ringer and they may have to pick us up early if we’re not ready to score seven runs a game,” assistant coach Will Bolt said. “That’s okay — we only need to score one more than the other team.”
Childress also pointed out that freshman John Doxakis is a very polished pitcher at his age and other freshmen Kyle Richardson and Jason Ruffcorn could contribute as well.
Ultimately, the coaches were happy for the most part with what they saw from their players during the fall and hope to build on that this spring in the weeks prior to opening weekend.
“We have a ways to go in terms of building our work habits the way they need to be,” Seely said. “We made a lot of strides during the fall. Where we are right now and where we were in the fall — we’ve made a lot of progress.”

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  • Brigham Hill returns as the Aggies’ unquestioned ace after going 9-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 97 innings as a sophomore in 2016.

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