'Rebuilding the bullpen' is high on SEMO baseball's to-do list this fall

Southeast Missouri State baseball coach Andy Sawyers speaks to his team following a recent practice at Capaha Field.
Ben Matthews ~ Southeast Missourian

Every baseball player dreams of competing in October and for the Southeast Missouri State squad, that will happen twice this week.

The Redhawks will host a pair of exhibition games today against Jefferson College (4 p.m.) and Saturday against Evansville (1 p.m.). Both games are at Capaha Field.

“The most important thing is learning how to win,” fourth-year Southeast coach Andy Sawyers said recently of his goal for this fall season. “I think we have a talented group of individuals. We had a poor year last year. We were super banged up last year and we have those guys back.”

The Redhawks have spent the past couple of weeks honing their skills and one of the areas of emphasis has been figuring out how the relief pitching will be managed.

Southeast graduated relievers Dan Bergtholdt (11 relief appearances, 62 total innings pitched), Logan Winder (25 relief appearances, 46 total innings pitched), Aaron Stretch (20 relief appearances, 28 total innings pitched), Austin Sachse (9 relief appearances, 51 total innings pitched), and Daniel Lloyd (20 relief appearances, 28 innings pitched).

That makes for a lot of innings that need to be filled next spring and Sawyers will be auditioning guys this week for those innings.

“We’ve kind of had to rebuild the bullpen,” Sawyers said. “I think our arm talent is pretty good. It’s a matter of getting guys into roles and figuring some things out.”

To fill those innings, Sawyers went out and recruited players with college experience already, as opposed to hoping true freshmen could eat up those innings.

Southeast added junior college pitchers Rance Pittman (Lower Columbia College), Hayden Malenfont (Southeastern College), and Dylan Needham (Mt. San Antonio College).

“Rance has some championship experience from the junior college ranks,” Sawyers said. “We’ve got guys (from junior college) that are going to throw really important innings for us.”

The Redhawks also have some players already on their roster from last spring that are going to be asked to elevate their games.

“Blake Cisneros,” Sawyers said of the sophomore, “he probably threw 30 innings for us as a true freshman, he’s going to throw important innings for us.”

Cisneros is a left-hander out of Rockwood Summit, and he worked 29 1/3 innings last spring. Of his 21 outings, 19 were in relief and he allowed 16 earned runs while striking out 20 and walking 10.

Another sophomore arm is right-hander Bryce Grossius, who was solid as a freshman.

The St. Mary’s graduate worked just over 20 innings and struck out a dozen hitters. Of his 16 appearances, 15 were in relief.

“Bryce was a freshman with a lot of talent,” Sawyers said. “We need him to do better for us. We did lose some guys on the back end, so we’re going to have to figure out who is going to close and who is going to set up and all of that kind of stuff.”

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