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Baseball Team Well-Armed for 2007

January 18, 2007

OBU had enough guns to get through double headers and the tough Sooner Athletic Conference tournament, but the wear and tear of the season left apt arms tired and over used by the time the team got to the regional.

That doesn't look to be the case  for the 2007 edition.

With eight pitchers who could be starters and a proven closer, the Bison approach the new season with a staff built for the post season.

"This team is built for tournaments. We can go 1-2-3-4 and we'll be able to match people up in the regular season and change them from series to series," Cox said.

Early on, however, only three things are known about that staff they are deep, they are strong and BryanTapley is the closer. He was 5-1 with eight saves last season and a 3.71 earned run average.

"Tapley will be our closer," said Cox. "We're hopeful that we won't have to work him as hard as we did last year when we had to bring him in the fourth inning to save a seven-inning game.He'll be more effective if he's a little more rested."

After that, the roles are still a little blurry.

"We will be really deep at pitcher with a lot of quantity and quality. On paper, this is the deepest pitching staff we've had in a longtime," said Cox.

Here's the break down from Cox:
"Ronnie Ball was drafted twice. He is a transfer from Oral Roberts without standing stuff. 

Ryan Cameron from Conners has a strong arm. He can get into the upper 80s and he has a really hard slider. 

Andrew Dickison can throw about 86 or 87 with good movement. 

Adam Garner is a big 6-5 kid who had just an outstanding fall season. 

Dustin Hughes has got as good of stuff as anyone. He'll be somewhere in the mix. 

Jordan McAvitt changes speed well and has a good breaking ball. 

Rod Ratliff was drafted out of junior college and throws in the low 90s and just throws really hard like Chad Rhoades.

Joe Stone is a four-pitch guy who can get into the upper 80s.

Doug Hurn is a big right hander who gets it in the low 90s with some really good stuff."

Of that group, Hughes is the only returner and his only start was an emergency appearance in the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament, in which he pitched four innings of two-hit ball against Oklahoma City.

"It has been a lot of fun to watch bull pens because you just don't see a bad one," Cox said. "This fall there just wasn't a lot of separation. We kept waiting for someone to fall off and no one ever did."

Handling the staff will beat and em of catchers Eric Curry, who is returning from an injury-stopped 2006 season, and new comer Keith Johnson.

"Eric Curry and Keith Johnson are both good pitch callers, solid receivers and good offensive guys," Cox said. "Curry's arm is better than before the surgery. I don't see him having any problem catching in the spring."

The down side to the depth in pitching was an in field thin in backups.

"We moved Ryan Brown to third base. Frank Avilla will beat short, Chris Cox at second and Chris Chambers at first base," said Cox. "All of those guys are good defensively, with Avilla anchoring things at short. Chris has got a lot of ability and experience at second. Freshman Brandon Hall is our back-up at second base.He's got a chance to be really good.

"Our problem is going to be depth in the in field, "said Cox. "When we left the tournament last year, we knew we had to make pitching our emphasis. We threw Dustin Hughes in the last game and he hadn't pitched much all year. And if we had won that game, we may have had to throw (catcher) Adam Dalby. We didn't want to be in that position again and we made the decision for pitching over depth in the in field."

Brown hit .319 with six homeruns last season. None of the other in fielders played for OBU last season, though Chris Cox played two seasons ago and hit .286 with half of his hits coming as doubles or triples.

Avilla is a junior transfer from Yuba College. Chambers comes to OBU as a junior from Chabot Junior College.

The out field looks to be a strength with left field and center field set.

"We are pretty strong in the out field," Cox said. Josh La Tour is back in center field. He had an outstanding fall probably the best fall of anyone."

La Tour led the SAC with eight triples last season and also had four home runs. He'll be flanked in left field by new comer Christian Ruiz, a junior transfer from Panola Junior College.

"He's very athletic," Cox said. "He could probably play center field but La Tour has done such a great job there."

Three players are in the mix for playing time in right.

"Right field is where the battle will be with three guys John Mowrey, Whitt Barkley and Ty Rolette," Coxsaid.

Mowrey played in 30 games last year and hit .291. Barkley has outstanding power and speed. Rolette made some big gains this fall from last year," said Cox.

The designated hitter will be Hughes, who hit .313 last season.

"The offense is the big question mark, but we really had a good fall season and this team might be better offensively than I originally anticipated," said Cox. "We don't have near the power of last year, but I think we can do what we need to do hit a lot of doubles."

Cox has the assistance of Chris Klimas, who begins his fourth season on the staff, and graduate assistant Kevin Paxson, a former Bison stand out and assistant coach at St.Gregory's.