Junior Seth Willoughby earned All-Conference honors and led XU with 12 saves this season.
May 31, 2012
CINCINNATI -- After a season in which the Xavier baseball team finished with an even 28-28 record, head coach Scott Googins is emphasizing improvement in the off season. Xavier finished with a 13-11 mark in Atlantic 10 competition and just missed making the A-10 tournament.
Perhaps the biggest story coming out of the 2012 season was that of junior relief pitcher Seth Willoughby. After hitting over .500 through the opening series of the season, the XU right hander suffered an injury in his left hand that prevented him from playing the field and hitting through most of the season. However, Willoughby hit his stride as Xavier's lights-out closer.
Willoughby finished the 2012 season tied for the conference lead in saves with 12, which was just one save shy of tying the XU single-season record. He also took over as Xavier's all-time career saves leader with 28. He finished his junior campaign with a 2-1 record and a stellar 1.01 ERA.
"Without having Seth (Willoughby) in our lineup kind of hurt us," said Googins. "It was a blessing in disguise for him though, because his velocity increased. He went from throwing 90 to 92 to hitting 94 to 95. He became unhittable. It's a huge asset to know that if you give a guy the ball at the end of the game and know that he's going to keep your lead."
Freshmen and sophomores were a big part of the team's success in 2012. Freshmen pitchers Alex Westrick and Adam Hall had strong seasons. Each rookie picked up two saves with Westrick positing a team second-best ERA of 1.57 and Hall posting a team third-best ERA of 2.70. Derek Hasenbeck earned a spot in the starting lineup and ended the season with a .258 average and 25 RBI.
Sophomores Brian Bruening, Tres Eberhardt, Michael Moore, and Selby Chidemo each saw extended time in the field with Bruening posting a pair of home runs and Moore, Eberhardt, and Chidemo each posting better than a .900 fielding percentage. Sophomore Mitch Elliott posted a .279 average with 17 RBI and two homers in 2012.
"Our pitching was our strength and our bullpen did a great job this season," said Googins. "Some of our younger guys who weren't in the mix at the beginning of the season really stepped up. Eberhardt really stuck out as someone who really did a great job at third base and Moore came in and played well at second. Bruening really came on strong through the end of the season," said Googins. "He was called upon to play right field and first base and did a good job at both."
Hasenbeck earned an A-10 rookie of the week nod and national attention for his efforts in Xavier's upset win over then-No. 4 North Carolina on February, 17.
"We knew we wanted Hasenbeck in the lineup but didn't expect to use him as a catcher that much," said Googins. "He really worked hard and did a good job for us as a catcher and first baseman."
Junior Mark Elwell finished the season as one of only two Musketeers with a .300 average or better. The XU center fielder hit .329 in 2012 and led the team with 29 RBI. Fellow juniors Patrick Paligraf and Daniel Rod had strong seasons with Paligraf hitting .282 and Rob adding a .279 average with 19 RBI.
"Paligraf was the leader of our infield this year," said Googins. "He'll definitely be in the lineup next season."
With the 2012 season in the books, Googins is looking forward to getting back to work in the fall.
"The way we left it with the team is that only one or two positions are solidified," said Googins. "There's going to be a lot of competition. The experience and depth we have coming back is very exciting."