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OTTAWA — What a difference a year makes for the Marquette baseball team.
In 2013, the Crusaders weren’t exactly sure where their pitching was going to come.
By the end of the year and into the 2014 season, pitching looks to be a big strength for a team that finished 25-8.
Marquette graduated a ton of talented in players such as 2012-13 NT Male Athlete of the Year Curtiss Johnson, who was a four-year standout and leader for the Crusaders.
But leading the tough pitching staff is sophomore Evan Snyder, who emerged as one of the top pitchers in the area as a freshman.
“Snyder is a pretty good player,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “He threw a gem down in Jacksonville against a good Brimfield team. We expect some good things from him again this year.”
Snyder had a record of 6-1 with an ERA of 2.13 with 52 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings of action last year.
After that, the Cru will rely on four-year starter Patrick Killelea, who was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA last spring.
Joining the duo on the mound will be another fourth-year varsity player in Tyler Verona along with a trio of sophomores in John Lechtenberg, C.J. Norman and Jel Raikes along with seniors Andrew and Matt Allen, Michael Hogan and Dalton Morris.
“Pitching is definitely going to be a big part of this team,” Hopkins said. “We have everybody back from last year along with some talented sophomores that will be a strength for us this year.”
Snyder proved to be a double threat in 2013. When not on the mound, he manned first base and batted .424 with 10 doubles and 40 RBIs.
The Crusaders also bring some speed to the table, which is something else Hopkins expects to utilize.
“With guys like Patrick and Trystin Raikes, we can use that to our advantage,” Hopkins said. “We surprised people and hit some home runs last year, but I don’t think we’ll see as much this year. We’ll rely on pitching and moving guys along when we can.”
Killelea hit .383 with 13 doubles and 30 RBIs last year, while Trystin Raikes is back for his third season at the varsity level at shortstop where he hit .391 with 14 RBIs along with being successful on 18 of 19 stolen base attempts last year.
Bryce Hinkelman will look to step into the catcher spot vacated by Johnson along with Drew Nelson and Ryan Owens.
“We know you can’t replace a four-year starter like Curtiss Johnson,” Hopkins said. “He was an all-stater and hit over .600, but Bryce (Hinkelman) is every bit as good defensively as Curtiss and we have a couple other guys who can give us some innings back there as well.”
Hopkins feels the questions may lie in the outfield.
“That’s definitely one question this year,” Hopkins said. “We have some good athletes and at least at the beginning of the year we’ll throw some guys in there and see how things pan out.”
Rounding out the Crusaders lineup are sophomores Austin Jeanblanc and Jel Raikes, junior Ryan Owens and seniors Cole Lindhout, Mitch Endres, Luke Miller, Jacob Martini and Nolan Durdan.