1st-year DSU baseball coach trying to find team's balanceThe Dickinson State baseball team is on its third coach in three seasons. However, first-year head coach Jason Watson is confident the Blue Hawks are in the right place as they prepare to begin their 10-game spring break appearance in Tucson, Ariz.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
The Dickinson State baseball team is on its third coach in three seasons.
However, first-year head coach Jason Watson is confident the Blue Hawks are in the right place as they prepare to begin their 10-game spring break appearance in Tucson, Ariz.
“It’s been a little bit of a rough transition period, but we’re all on the same page now,” Watson said. “Everything is ironed out and we’re ready to compete.”
Watson spent the past five seasons as an assistant at Franklin (Ind.) College and his alma mater, Wisconsin-Platteville before being hired at DSU, replacing interim coach Andy Emard, who had taken after longtime coach Duane Monlux left to become the head coach at Bellevue (Neb.) University.
Watson said having the fall semester to get acquainted with players, many of whom he did not recruit, was essential in preparing for the 2012 season.
“It was kind of a rough transition with the players, getting to know me, my coaching style,” he said. “For a majority of them, I’m their third coach in three years.”
Watson takes over a team that went 22-15 last season but returns only a handful of players who saw a good amount of playing time.
The Blue Hawks bring back two starting pitchers (right-handers Ryan Crossingham and Conor Hartz), senior closer Andrew Grafton and three starters in the field, including senior left fielder Derek Carley, last year’s Dakota Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player.
Carley hit .486 with five home runs, 11 doubles and 30 RBI last season. He said duplicating those numbers won’t be easy.
“I’m realizing it is pretty tough,” Carley said. “I’ve noticed you can’t think about that because last year I didn’t come in thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to replicate a year like that.’ This year I kind of came in with that on my back and it made a difference. I’m still trying to get it off my back and start new, act like it’s my first year.”
The Blue Hawks started the season Feb. 17 with a pair of doubleheaders against Dakota Wesleyan at the Metrodome. They went 1-3. March 24-26, they split a four-game series at the College of Idaho.
Crossingham said this week’s trip to Arizona, which begins at 11 a.m. today with a doubleheader against Illinois Tech, is essential to the Blue Hawks’ development.
“Every year I’ve been here, you kind of feel things out,” said Crossingham, a four-year starter from Sante Fe, N.M. “Then at Arizona, you find out what kind of team you’re going to be. I’m looking forward to going to Arizona.”
The trip is also typically a time when veterans mesh with newcomers.
Freshmen pitchers Chas Allen and Nick Kearley and junior Bobby King, a transfer from Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont.
In the field, senior Travis Setere was an all-DAC selection as a catcher last season but back problems have forced him to switch to first base. Justin Elizondo returns at second base, Erik Bastio will get the start at third base after spending most of his time as a relief pitcher in 2011 and Jon Mendoza and Derek Carley are back in the outfield.
Setere hit .320 with four RBI in DSU’s first eight games. Carley is batting .294 with four RBI.
Zach Griffith, a senior who played sparingly last season, will share catcher duties with freshman Ryan Risse.
They’ll need to mesh with junior shortstop Brock Murphy, a transfer from Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont., and center fielder Tanner Newman, who is also a Dawson transfer.
“Tanner is an all-around player,” Watson said. “He can pitch. He can run down a fly ball, throw a runner out. He can pretty much do it all. … Tanner is kind of my jack-of-all-trades type of guy.”
Crossingham said the Arizona trip should help create some consistency between pitchers and the guys at the plate. DSU has a 5.19 team earned-run average and walked 23 batters with 44 strikeouts in the first eight games.
“We’ve got to pitch a little better as a team, Crossingham said. “It’s kind of been our downfall in the games that we’ve lost. Find a balance of hitting and pitching together, and not just one or the other.”
Watson agreed, saying the Blue Hawks had split personalities in their first few games.
“At times this year, we’ve played the way we’re capable of playing,” Watson said. “Those are the three wins we have. When we don’t play the way we’re capable of playing, it shows with the five losses. Those losses, a couple of them were pretty bad.”
Dickinson State baseball notes
Head coach: Jason Watson (first season)
Assistant coaches: Chris Young (third season), Mark Littell (first season) Last year: 22-15, 13-5 Dakota Athletic Conference; second place in DAC regular season, fourth place in DAC tournament.
This year: 3-5.
Returners: Derek Carley, Sr., LF (2011DAC MVP); Travis Setere, Sr., 1B (all-DAC); Jonathon Mendoza, Sr., OF; Justin Elizondo, Sr., 2B; Erik Bastio, Sr., 3B/RHP; Ryan Crossingham, Sr., RHP; Conor Hartz, Sr., RHP; Andrew Grafton, Sr., RHP; C.J. Ketron, Sr., RHP; Zach Griffith, Sr., C; Brock Overbo, Jr., RHP; Ian Anderson, Jr., LHP.
Newcomers: Brock Murphy, Jr., SS; Jacob Muir, Jr., OF; Tanner Newman, Jr., OF; Jake Coyle, So., IF; Sam Bisson, R-Fr., IF; Caleb Burgard, R-Fr., IF; Chas Allen, Fr., RHP/IF; Bobby King, Fr., RHP; Nick Kearley, Fr., RHP; Ryan Risse, Fr., C; Cole Steinbeisser, Fr., RHP;
Losses: Kevin Park, 3B; Russell Graham, CF; Bronson Collins, P; Willie Sandez, DH; Liam Foran, IF; Derrick Gunderson, IF; Chase Doremus, IF/P; Cole Zamira, IF/OF; Logan Capp, C; Roberto Gonzalez, P; Tucker Slagle, P; Bobby Santoyo, P; Matt Burwell, P.