The Northern Colorado Bears are preparing for the 2011-12 NCAA Baseball Season, getting ready for their first game on February 24th while they look for production from new places.
Though the team will be dealing with the departures of OF Jarod Berggren (selected in the 32nd round of the MLB draft by the Colorado Rockies), INF T.J. Berge and OF Bret Fanning, they still anticipate key contributions from senior OF Marcus Valenzuela (.302/.367/.437 for an .804 OPS in 2011) and junior INF Adam Hilker (.335/.439/.452 for an .891 OPS).
The Bears pitching staff will also look to lean once again on the arm of junior LHP Joe Willman, who led the team with 80 and 2/3 innings pitched in 2011, sporting a 5.24 ERA and striking out 6.47 K/9 and walking 3.24 BB/9. In the Great West Conference, where the average ERA is 6.46, Willman's 5.24 ERA offering actually earned him a No. 6 ranking, with senior RHP Joe Sawicki at No. 15 with a 7.13 ERA.
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt also thinks the Bears may find some production from new faces in 2012:
Two newcomers figure to make a big impact for Northern Colorado: Fr. CF Jensen Park is undersized at 5-foot-8, but his plus speed and surprising strength cause the coaches to compare him to Shane Victorino. And Fr. RHP Jess Amedee shows command of four quality pitches and a poised mound presence.
Northern Colorado starts its 2012 season Friday, February 24, against the North Dakota St. Bison.
For more news and updates on the Northern Colorado Bears baseball team, stay tuned to SB Nation Denver.