The University of Cincinnati baseball team heads into the 2019 season with head coach Scott Googins’ in his second year at the helm. He will face the challenge of replacing 10 seniors from a team that finished 28-28 a year ago. UC finished sixth in the conference at 12-12.
To fill the roster, the coaches brought in 10 new recruits, as well as University of Tennessee transfer Wyatt Stapp (infielder) and Cincinnati-native J.P. Bitzenhofer (catcher) from Dyersburg Community College and St. Xavier High School.
“We knew what our needs would be with having 10 seniors last year,” second-year assistant coach J.D. Heilmann said. “We hit the recruiting trail and tried to find the best guys that would fill into those roles and contribute right away. It’s hard to replace 10 seniors, so the biggest thing we did over the offseason was identify our needs with recruiting.”
Notable seniors who return for UC include outfielder A.J. Bumpass (.249, four triples, six homeruns), pitcher A.J. Kullman (4.71 ERA in 22 appearances), pitcher Clayton Colvin (3.94 ERA in 22 appearances) and catcher Mason DeAnna (.246, 15 hits in 22 games).
“You’ve got to have experience,” Heilmann said. “As talented as people are, that experience part plays so much more because they know what it’s been like on the road playing in our conference. The new guys can come in and look up to guys like Bumpass, Kullman, Colvin and DeAnna.”
After being primarily a relief pitcher last season, Kullman is expected to earn more starts on the mound.
“A.J. Kullman has grown from last year to this year and taken on more of a leadership role,” Heilmann said. “He’ll be one of our weekend starters.”
Although the team finished .500 last year, the 10 seniors changed the work ethic surrounding the program to start Googins’ tenure.
“The [seniors] last year set the bar and now we have guys who are trying to reach and go over that bar,” Heilmann said. “The expectations are higher this year, which you always want. Higher expectations mean you’re growing as a team. I give credit to our seniors last year because they made our guys hungry when they saw their success.”
Heilmann, the primary pitching coach, oversaw a pitching staff that finished with a 4.62 ERA last year. He believes the depth on the mound this year will put the team in a position to hold leads in late innings.
“We just want to put our pitchers in the best position to win,” Heilmann said. “There’s a little bit of uncertainty with losing [senior pitchers] J.T. Perez, Cam Alldred and Jared Yoakam, who all pitched a lot of innings for us. We’ve got some new, talented guys, as well as some veteran guys who will step up … I like where our pitchers are at, and I think we’re really deep on the mound. We can use a lot of guys in a lot of different situations.”
UC begins the season against the Florida Atlantic University Owls in Boca Raton, Florida, Feb. 15-17.