by Colin Beltz
Whomever is looking for a sure sign of spring need not look any further. The Concordia baseball team's season is officially underway.
Concordia opened their 1996 campaign against Clarke (IA) yesterday and will play Northwestern (IA) today. Both games were played at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
This year, Concordia will try to defend its first outright MIAC title.
Don "Bucky" Burgau returns for his 18th season as the Concordia head coach. In his career at Concordia, Burgau has amassed 337 wins.
The prognosis looks good for Concordia once again this spring. Like most other teams, the Cobbers will need to rely on the basic fundamentals to succeed.
The Cobbers return all-region pick junior Greg Salvevold, as well as four of their five best pitchers from a year ago.
Salvevold hit .362 for the Cobbers last year as he split time between center field, third base, in addition to pitching.
Junior Jim McCormick will likely be number one on the pitching staff this season. He moved into the number two position behind Coste after finishing strong last year with a 4-1 record and a minuscule 1.32 earned run average.
Salvevold won two games without a defeat last year, posting a 3.55 earned run average.
Junior Joe Cuchna is the third solid starter from a year ago will be back. Cuchna finished the season 5-4 last year. He gave the Cobbers over fifty innings of work last year and will likely be counted on to do the same this season.
When relief is needed, senior Stu Lang will be summoned from the bull pen. He appeared in 20 games in 1995 winning seven without a loss. He struck out 26 batters and had an ERA of 2.79.
"Good pitching will be the key," said Lang. "We need to find a fourth pitcher after our three solid starters."
Even with most of the pitching staff returning, the team will have big shoes to fill with the departure of Coste. He was a three- time MIAC Most Valuable Player winner and 1995 first team All-American. With this in mind, Burgau will count on the whole team to step up their play.
"It's virtually impossible to replace a Chris Coste with one guy," said Burgau. "But, certainly the cupboard is not bare. He won seven games for us, but some other guys won 23."
Around the infield, Salvevold will play at third, and All-MIAC sophomore shortstop Scott DeBrito and junior second baseman Jeremy Holm will solidify the middle of the infield.
DeBrito hit .309 for the Cobbers last year. His 42 hits was the second highest total on the team, and he knocked in 24 runs.
Holm batted .289 last year and drove in 35 runs which was tied for second best on the team.
At first base, Jason Myhre moves into a starting job. He hit .319 in 19 at bats a year ago. Three of his six hits last year were doubles.
In the outfield, junior Randy Razidlo returns in left field while senior co-captain Dan Zinger will play in right.
Razidlo batted lead off for Concordia last year and was one of leading hitters on the team with a .333 batting average.
Zinger hit .324 last year with 24 hits on the year while knocking in 15 runs.
The starting center field position is still up for grabs however junior transfer student Noah Johnson is the front runner.. He played at Augsburg last year and was voted to the All-MIAC team.
The designated hitter will be senior co-captain Terry Haus. He hit .243 last year for the Cobbers.
Senior Jeff Spanier will split time at catcher with sophomore Matt Bergstrom.
The team has added a few players and subtracted a few others, however Burgau thinks it will add up to a successful season.
The Cobbers will be a marked team, with teams such as St. Thomas, St. John's, St. Olaf all in the hunt to take the title away from the Cobbers.
"We will have a baseball team that will be built with a pitching staff that will throw strikes and is solid defensively," said Burgau. "To me, that means that we will have a chance to win each game we play."
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