Tigers try to tear apart rough schedule, earn stripes for May baseball playoffs
March 16, 2005 - By STEPHEN GLOVER
For the Call
When the District 3 baseball playoffs begin in May, the Oakville Tigers hope the strength of their regular season schedule will pay huge dividends.
The Tigers have made the move from the Suburban South Conference to the highly regarded Suburban West, which includes traditional powers Parkway South, Lafayette and Lindbergh. And Oakville again is participating in the Lindbergh-Mehlville tournament, which includes defending state champion Vianney.
"This is definitely the toughest schedule of any Oakville baseball team," Tiger head coach Rich Sturm told the Call. "By May, we'll definitely be battle tested."
Andy Marks will head the Tiger pitching staff. He recorded an impressive 9-1 record on the mound last season with a 1.87 earned run average. Marks led Oakville in strikeouts with 82 and kept his opponents to a slim .214 batting average.
Marks also was stellar at the plate with a team-leading .459 batting average, including 17 runs batted in on 34 hits. He hit three doubles, one triple and two home runs while stealing four bases.
"Andy's looked sharp in some inter squad games," Sturm said. "Obviously he has a very good arm, but he's also very good defensively. He's going to be a big part of what we do."
Senior Justin Fujarski will bring another solid bat to the Tiger lineup. He carried a .350 batting average last year. The center fielder also drove in 16 runs on 28 hits, tallying five doubles, three triples and three home runs. Fujarski also swiped a team-leading 16 stolen bases last year.
"Justin's got a very strong and accurate arm," Sturm said. "He's going to be our catalyst offensively speaking."
The Tigers hope senior pitcher Brian Randolph will be a factor on the mound after appearing in three games last season. Randolph held a 1.62 earned run average in 4.3 innings pitched, striking out two and keeping opposing batters to a .235 average.
"Brian's a guy that can be a spot starter or come out of the bullpen," Sturm said. "He probably will be in the latter part of our batting order, but we'll need him to set up the top of the order."
Junior Casey Jones will take on the catching duties this season after spending the 2004 campaign as Oakville's designated hitter. As DH, Jones batted .347 and drove in a team-leading 26 runs. Jones generated a lot of power in the Tigers' batting order, belting five home runs last year.
"Casey's going to be one of those guys that will be batting in the middle of our lineup," Sturm said. "He knows our pitchers really well and knows what to expect from them."
Greg Dambach will prowl the outfield and serve as the Tigers' backup catcher. The junior struggled at the plate last season, but made considerable strides during the American Legion season last summer, hitting .353 with 25 runs batted in, Sturm said.
"He has an extremely strong arm and can hit the ball to all parts of the field," he said.
Sturm also has been impressed with the performance of junior pitcher Pat Doyle, who went 0-1 in six games last season. Doyle had an earned run average of 4.74 with 15 strikeouts.
"His velocity has really improved over the last year, and we look for him to get a lot of significant innings this year," he said.
Junior pitcher Matt Pressler also should record some significant innings for the Tigers this season after going 2-2 overall with a 7.00 earned run average. Pressler struck out 23 batters last season.
"Matt's not going to blow you away with velocity," Sturm said. "He really relies on working the count and letting hitters get themselves out."
In the season opener, Oakville travels to Mehlville for the first round of the Lindbergh-Mehlville Tournament.
"Mehlville was one of the most improved teams last year that returns a good core of players," Sturm said. "From the very start of the season, we could have our work cut out for us. It's going to be a battle every time we see them."
The Oakville-Mehlville district bragging-rights game starts at 4 p.m. Monday.