The Butler baseball team will enter the 2012 season with a mix of experienced sophomores and some talented freshmen.
Butler already has three of its four weekend series starters established in returning sophomores Taylor Berthusen, Chase Haines and Dakota McKaskle, who became an effective starter at the end of the 2011 season.
When it comes to position players, leadoff man and centerfielder Brayon Colley returns after hitting .350 with a team-high 31 stolen bases a year ago. Ross Cunningham will also be in the lineup, either in right field or as the DH.
Butler will replace most of its infield and its starting catcher from a year ago, but capable backups will push to be starters this year, including Aaron Malone at second and shortstop, Christian Locke at third base and catcher Baylor Parker. Freshmen Gus Strunk, Levi Parker and Gabe Cook will push for playing time in the infield.
"We'll pitch it well and play better defense," head coach B.J. McVay said. "We'll have to swing it a little better, though, than we did in the fall."
Butler will also play one of its most difficult schedules in recent memory, with no four-year JV squads and games against traditional powers like Odessa (Texas), Northern Oklahoma-Enid, Seminole State (Okla.) and Iowa Western.
"It's tough," admits McVay, who is getting ready to start his second season as head coach and his ninth season overall at Butler, "a lot tougher than what it's been probably since I've been here."