Ryan O’Sullivan was expected to be a key contributor for the San Diego State baseball team this season. After junior ace Addison Reed was drafted, O’Sullivan looked to be one of the players who would fill Reed’s shoes. Plus, he was arguably the team’s best infielder.
But with the 2011 season beginning tomorrow, the junior shortstop / pitcher will be nowhere near Tony Gwynn Stadium. Because of academic issues, O’Sullivan transferred and is now playing at Oklahoma City University.
“Yes, we’ll miss Ryan O’Sullivan, his energy, his enthusiasm and those kinds of things,” assistant coach Mark Martinez said. “But we’ve been prepared for this for a long time, so it’s not that devastating. Our guys are ready to play.”
SDSU knew last summer O’Sullivan wouldn’t be on the team’s roster this spring, and it made the necessary adjustments to fill in the spots left open by his departure.
As far as replacing their starting shortstop, the Aztecs will look to freshman Cody Slader to step into that position. The infielder from Castro Valley worked out with O’Sullivan during the fall and gained valuable knowledge, Slader said.
“He was a great role model for me,” Slader said. “He taught me so much I never knew even existed on the field; I’m really excited to be a part of this team.”
Slader won’t be the only freshman playing a role for SDSU this season, though. Martinez sees a number of others adding to the mix and therefore doesn’t see a set lineup for possibly most of the year.
“They’re a solid group and they all kind of know what their role is,” Martinez said.
“They’re all going to take advantage of their opportunity and very few guys are going to play everyday. (Junior outfielder) Brandon Meredith and maybe (junior first baseman / outfielder) Jomel Torres are going to play the bulk of the games at two positions. Other than that, we’re going to mix and match and keep our guys fresh and hungry to play and perform.”
As far as the pitching staff, O’Sullivan only appeared in one inning last season because of an arm injury, so his departure won’t have a huge impact on the rotation. However, with Reed being drafted in the third round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox, the Aztecs will turn to sophomore pitcher Bryan Crabb to become the Friday night ace this season.
Crabb pitched 71 1/2 innings last year, going 4-5 with a 3.89 ERA. However, he missed the last two weeks of the season after he was hit by a line drive while pitching against BYU on May 14.
The No. 2 spot will go to Ethan Miller. The sophomore pitcher appeared in 40.2 innings last year.
The rest of the pitching staff will be a mix of JC players and freshmen. Junior pitchers Mike Hachadorian and Austin Haynal as well as freshman TJ Kendzora look to be important parts of this year’s rotation.
“Our pitching staff is a 180 degree turnaround from last year,” Martinez said. “We’re going to throw strikes. We’re going to compete.”
O’Sullivan was not only key to SDSU as a player, he also provided leadership on and off the field. But with a roster of few experienced juniors and seniors, someone has stepped up.
“As far as Ryan being gone, this is the first year that I actually have been vocal as far as a team leader,” Meredith said. “Usually, I’m not a guy who likes to say things, (I’m) more of a person who shows and leads the path.”
This sentiment is shared by Martinez, who said Meredith is a quiet leader, one who leads by example. He also mentioned that when Meredith has something to say, everyone listens, including the coaching staff because he doesn’t speak up that much.
His leadership is sure to be vital for the Aztecs as they open this season at 6 p.m. tomorrow against Winthrop at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
“I’m so excited,” Slader said of the team’s home opener. “I’ve got my family and friends coming down and I’m happy for my teammates and all the other freshmen and veterans that’ll get to play. I’m really looking forward to it.”