Big `Country' Leading X to Solid Start

Junior Zac Richard

Junior Zac Richard

March 12, 2009

By Adam Kiefaber

CINCINNATI - The player that his teammates call "Country," is huge.

At 6-foot-5 260 pounds, Xavier junior Zac Richard is an intimidating presence at the plate and on the mound.

"Zac Richard has done an unbelievable job not only hitting, but pitching," Xavier head coach Scott Googins said. "He is a guy in the lineup that teams notice. He is a big, strong, physical looking kid and for him to be in the middle of the lineup, it helps our other hitters."

In Xavier's recent 7-4 loss on March 11 to rival Cincinnati, Richard went 2-for-4 and raised his batting average this season from .368 to .391. Last season, Richard finished with a .343 batting average in a team-leading 213 at-bats. He also led the team with 106 total bases and struck out only 23 times.

Along with Richard, the Musketeers return all of their starting position players from a year ago.

Steve Brown, now a senior, led Xavier with a .350 batting average last season. Other returning starters include Bobby Freking, Jordan Conley, Adam Pasono, Sean Farrell, Drew Schmidt, Billy O'Conner and John McCambridge.

 

 

"Getting most of our position players back from last year has us expecting big things this season," Richard said. "Our pitching is young, but a couple of guys are stepping up."

Heading into the season, pitching was a major concern to coach Googins due to the losses of Xavier's two most-used starters, Michael Lucas and Charlie Leesman. Both pitchers have moved on and are currently playing in the Chicago White Sox organization.

"When you have those big guns like we had last year, the whole team has confidence when they take the mound," Googins said.

With all the inexperience on the mound, Xavier still has an ace up its sleeve in junior Danny Rosenbaum, who led the team with starts 14 last season. Overall, Rosenbaum finished 2008 with a 5-3 record, 78.1 innings, 82 strikeouts and had a 3.79 earned run average.

This year, Rosenbaum is off to great start. In three starts, he is 2-0 and hasn't allowed a single earned run. He also has 10 strikeouts in 16 innings and has held his opponents to a .204 batting average.

Even though he didn't expect Rosenbaum to be perfect, Googins knew that he was going to be solid. What he is worried about are the young pitchers that have to come in and replace Leesman and Lucas.

"We really weren't sure what our pitching was going to be like. We have very good arms, but they are just young," Googins said. "Our pitching has certainly been a pleasant surprise."

Leading the way is freshman Josh Deeg and redshirt freshman Nathan Mutsch.

Deeg has a record of 1-0. He has had three appearances, one start, pitched eight innings and struckout 10. He has also held his opponents to a .194 batting average and has a 1.12 ERA.

Mutsch seems to be developing into another ace for Xavier. In two starts, he has a 2-0 record, pitched 14 innings and has a team-leading 11 strikeouts.

"When Charlie Leesman or Michael Lucas would take the mound, guys would think that they had a great chance to win. With some of these younger guys they weren't so sure," Googins said. "Now Nathan Mutsch has stepped in that role. In his last two outings when he stepped out on that mound, his guys had confidence in him."

The pitching has helped out Xavier, who currently is 6-5 and off to a solid start this season.

Offensively, Xavier is hitting .240 as team, while last year it hit .286.

Pitching, on the other hand, has improved. As a team last season, the team ERA was 5.30. This season, the ERA has dropped to 3.93.

With the solid start to the 2009 season, the overall attitude in the dugout is excitement. Many of the players and coaches feel like they have played well against a challenging non-conference schedule.

However, while everyone is proud of how the team has played, the players and coaches feel that they should have won more.

"Comparing it to past years, we feel really good about our start, but with the team we have we still think that we should have a couple of more wins under our belt," Richard said.

Up next for the Musketeers is the Spartan Classic in Greenville S.C. During the event, Xavier will play three games in two days (March 14-15). First up is Quinnipiac, followed by two games against Michigan State.

After the Spartan Classic, Xavier will head up to Dayton, Ohio, to play Wright State on March 18.

Then X will have its first home game/series of the season when it begins its Atlantic 10 schedule against Saint Louis at Hayden Field, March 20-22.

"Right now, we are 6-5, we should probably have eight wins, but we are playing really well. I think when we start with our conference games next week, we will be ready," Mutsch said.