PREVIEW: 2011 Gents Baseball is Here
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Opening Day is right around the corner. A new year. A new coach. Two seniors who lead the way. It's time for Centenary baseball.

The Gents open the 2011 season at home on Saturday, February 19 in a double-header against future ASC opponent, Louisiana College at 1 pm at Shehee Stadium.

Coming off a very successful 28-26 season a year ago, the Centenary squad is rebuilt and revamped to begin its run for another winning season. This year-under first year head coach Mike Diaz.

Diaz is no stranger to the program as he served as the associate head coach and assistant coach for the Gents for six years prior to taking over the role this year.

YOUNG GUNS

Of the 27 rostered players, Centenary welcomes 21 newcomers to the squad, including 16 freshmen. Hailing from California, Texas and Louisiana, the 16 young guns will have to play an integral role on this year's squad.

MOVIN' IN

Five transfers will see action this season in juniors Dan Lazarou, Zach Christ, Kyle Mauch and Kyle Morton as well as sophomore Kelby Langston. The five will immediately become role players in the outfield, infield and on the mound this season.

SENIORS SET TO LEAD

Justin Kraft and Derek Dalzell are the only two seniors on Centenary's roster this season. Both have played a huge role in the Gents' success over the last three years. Kraft, a right-hander pitcher is from Yakima, Wash. and Dalzell, a two-way guy is a three-year letterwinner from Bay City, Mich.

RETURNERS TO REPRESENT

Centenary's returners include Kraft, Dalzell, junior catcher Jeff Schaffert and junior RHP Seth Lugo as well as sophomores Cole Thompson and Matt Creamer. All six made a contribution on the field a year ago and will be looked upon to guide this young team.

INFIELD NOTES

  • 4-of the-5 infielders are new to the Gents infield
  • Considered one of Centenary's team strengths
  • Jeff Schaffert returns as the leader behind the dish (354 putouts, 51 games played, .987 field percentage - 2010)

"Schaff is an above average catcher who displays a tremendous arm with leadership qualities," said Diaz.

  • Team has great depth in infield
  • Looks to Kyle Morton to lead at first base (good stick at plate, strong presence at first base)
  • Freshmen to pace middle infield: Pete Rajkovich and RJ Talamantes (good speed, duo works well together)
  • Matt Creamer set for third (a year of utility experience, good hands)

"We have ultimately established a solid starting infield that will be a strength of our this season. It is also fantastic to have depth with Derek Dalzell and Derrick Hernandez, who can come in at anytime and be a contributor," said Diaz.

"This group of guys worked extremely hard in the off season and I expect there to be early mistakes, but we, as a coaching staff, will allow them to play through it and learn as they gain experience on an everyday basis," said Diaz.

OUTFIELD NOTES

  • All new outfielders on the squad
  • Six guys vying for three spots
  • The players have a chance to win a position

"The preseason, non-conference schedule will be huge for us as we look to fill our outfield. We have six guys who can ultimately play for three spots and we are excited to see how the outfield progresses," said Diaz.

PITCHING STAFF

  • Welcomes back three starters with solid experience
  • Go-to guys in RHP Justin Kraft, Seth Lugo, Cole Thompson
  • Kraft: 4-5, 6.82 ERA, 12 GS, 2 CG, 60.2 IP, 47 SO (2010)

 "Kraft has proven he is a DI pitcher and one of our Top 3 year-in-and-year-out. He was named Freshmen All-American and has improved a great deal from a year ago," said Diaz.

  • Seth Lugo: 2-3, 2 SV, 4.75 ERA, 7 GS, 41.2 IP, 34 SO (2010)

"Lugo was named Summit League All-Conference last season. He came back after an early season injury a year ago and dominated. He is a power guy with a strong upside and has No. 1 stuff and will be the anchor of our staff," said Diaz.

  • Cole Thompson: 1-2, 8 AP, 1 GS, 9.1 IP, 7 SO (2010)

"Cole is coming off a great summer playing in the competitive TCL and has matured from last season. His stuff is worth recognizing at the DI level," said Diaz.

"Our Top 3 can beat anyone on any given day and that is a luxury and strength of this Centenary team," said Diaz.

  • Team has options out of the pen
  • First to look upon in relief role is RHP Derek Dalzell (returner with experience)
  • Derek Dalzell: 4-2, 4.58 ERA, 24 AP, 35.1 IP, 21 SO

"We have a few options for our fourth starter, including freshmen RHP Trey Lavespere and Grady Flournoy. We will allow young guys to compete and see how the season progresses with their contributions," said Diaz.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

  • Will have 8 new hitters in the lineup on any given day
  • Non-conference games will be huge in determining lineup

"As a team, we must do the "little things" right offensively to be successful. We aren't going to overpower any team and that is okay. We just need to make sure that we work our instincts on the bases and use our average team speed to produce runs when needed," said Diaz.

COACHING STAFF

  • Four coaches all with DI coaching or playing experience
  • Mike Diaz: 1st year as Head Coach; 7th year with Centenary
  • Jason Stephens: 2nd year as Centenary's pitching coach
  • Austin Jones: 1st year with Gents
  • Pat Jolley: 1st year with Gents

"I feel like our coaching staff is one of our biggest strengths this year. The players are fortunate enough to have three sets of eyes (Diaz, Jones, Jolley) on them in the cages and during BP," said Diaz."Jason is a tremendous pitching coach with both DI playing and coaching experience and was a huge part in last year's success with MLB draftees Boone Whiting and Dakota Robinson."

Centenary staff:

  • Experience
  • Players respect
  • Develop players
  • Cover all aspects of game from hitting to pitching to base running to defense

SCHEDULE NOTES

  • Will play three games at home in non-conference play (Feb. 19-LA College & March 4-SFA)
  • Spend a month and half on road

"As a team, we must learn how to play on the road this season, considering 17 of our first 20 games are away from Shehee Stadium," said Diaz.

  • Opens league play at Oral Roberts (April 8) and host SDSU right after (April 15)
  • Good mix of talented DI opponents
  • Schedule will prepare guys for Summit League play
  • Limited in number of games this season due to DIII transition
  • Travels to Hawai'i for 4-game set in March
  • Plays Texas A&M in College Station on March 8

"The unique thing about our team is we will have 6-7 newcomers in the lineup almost every game we play this season," said Diaz.

All Centenary home games will be available via live stats on GoCentenary.com.