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First Article

Since my switch from full time music student to communication bum, it has been pretty crazy. I know that Wildcat Baseball is wildly popular among the Cat Fancy audience, so here’s my first article that came out in the CWU Observer yesterday:

Wildcat Baseball Prepare for Spring
Young team builds up in off season to compensate for loss of star players

As the Jose Vidros and Richie Sexsons of the world sit at home this off-season praying that they will find a job next summer, a new batch of talent will be conditioning this fall. Eager to see what is on the horizon in their young baseball careers, Central will spend the off season preparing for another run at the post season.

This Wild Cat team is definitely one of the youngest head coach Desi Storey has seen in recent years. With nine seniors graduating last year, it is going to take some serious recruiting and some critical performances from returning upper classmen to keep this program competitive.

Probably the most devastating loss to this team is the departure of short stop Jamie Nilsen, who graduated and is now playing in the Kansas City Royals organization. Nilsen, the only player in Great Northwest Athletic Conference history to have over a .400 career batting average, obliterated just about every school record at central.

“We’re not going to replace Jamie; he’s the best player in school history,” Storey said. “Our goal is to have a great core group come in. With the absence of Jamie not only do we have to find a quality shortstop, I think we need to get better in the places that we lost guys.”

Some of those players could be guys like corner infielder Frank Donangelo. Donangelo was in the top five in nearly every offensive statistical category in the 2008 season. He batted .349 with an outstanding OPS (On Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage) of .972. Donangelo’s season is surely going to be one to keep a close eye on.

When asked what his personal goals are for the season he said what most competitors would say. “Win a championship; I think that’s the goal of every player,” Donangelo said. “Especially now that I’m a senior, it’s kind of what we’re all pushed to do.”

As for the hole at short stop, junior Kevin Walkenhauer seems to be the logical choice. A two time MVP in high school at short stop, Walkenhauer played mostly second base in 2008 due to injuries at the position.

It is, of course, unfair to compare Walkenhauer to Nilsen, but from a team evaluation standpoint, the question must be asked.

“Average wise, Kevin should hit for a high percentage, and he’s got really good power,” Coach Storey said. “Whether or not he can match Jamie’s numbers I don’t know, but Kevin’s going to get his share of home runs too. He’s pretty strong.”

With only a handful of positions solidified on this team, a strong freshman recruiting class is going to be crucial to build not only a winning team in 2009, but for years to come.

Sophomore transfer from Whitworth, Mac Collette commented on the level of competition during the fall workouts so far.

“It’s definitely tough,” Collette said. “There’s a lot of good talent and quite a few good transfers.”

Unfortunately Collette will be sitting out this season with some hamstring issues and is rehabbing for a hopeful return for next year.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited for Wildcat baseball this spring. Most of the pitching staff is back and there is talent throughout the roster. There are still some key positions with holes and it will be interesting to see how the roster looks when it is finalized in January.

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