Tigers fall to Hazelwood West in opener, but coach optimistic about 2012 season

By Robert Chalupny

The Oakville Senior High School baseball team did not start the 2012 season the way the Tigers wanted, but Head Coach Rich Sturm is optimistic about his team’s chances this year.

The Tigers fell 2-1 to Hazelwood West on Friday in the opening game of the 42nd annual Lindbergh-Mehlville Baseball Tournament.

Many factors could prove to put Oakville in a great deal of low-scoring games this season, starting with the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s adoption of Ball Exit Speed Ratio, or BESR, bats.

The new rule is designed to limit bat performance at or near the maximum performance limits of a wood bat, thereby minimizing additional risks and promoting the sound traditions of the sport.

During a preseason interview, Sturm told the Call he expects to see a lot more small ball in the early innings as opposed to playing for a big inning early on, which has been the norm in recent years.

“It’s going to completely change the game,” Sturm said. “I think you’ll definitely see a shift in philosophy.”

The Tigers finished the 2011 season with an impressive record of 18-9, but were halted in the first round of the playoffs by Hillsboro.

The Tigers lost several of their position players to graduation, but return a small army of starting pitchers that are expected to do big things this season.

“We are going to be young, but we have a senior-laden pitching staff,” Sturm said.

The Tigers return five starting pitchers from last season — all seniors.

Nick Hummel, Will Miller, Jake Lund, C.J. Martin and Brian Whaley will comprise the starting rotation, which will play a huge role in keeping Oakville in those close games.

“One strength is definitely our senior pitching staff with five senior starters. And Tommy Breunig is great behind the plate, so we are excited about that,” Sturm said.

As for the rest of the young team, Sturm is not worried.

“Inexperience could be a weakness, but we have a lot of confidence in these guys or we wouldn’t have them up,” the Oakville coach said. “Again, we’ve got some experience, but we’ve got a lot of young kids, too. So we will see where that takes us.”

The Lindbergh-Mehlville Baseball Tournament was scheduled to continue with games through Wednesday — after the Call went to press.