SEGUIN — The Texas Lutheran Bulldogs, coming off back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division III baseball postseason, start the 2020 campaign with a preseason national ranking of No. 17 from Collegiate Baseball and a ranking of No. 22 from D3baseball.com and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
TLU starts the 2020 season on Friday, Feb. 7 in Grand Prairie, Texas against Hendrix College, Ark. The contest is set for a 6 p.m. start. The game is the first of three games for TLU at the Rusty Greer/Jackie Moore Classic in Grand Prairie. TLU faces George Fox (Ore.) and Methodist (N.C.) on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, respectively.
The Bulldogs’ first home game is set for 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 against Pacific Lutheran.
The co-regular season champions of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2019, the Bulldogs return eight position players that started at least 22 games a season ago. The team also brings back four pitchers that tossed more than 18 innings.
The Bulldogs went 31-14 overall and 14-4 in the SCAC in the 2019 campaign. After finishing in a tie atop the SCAC in the regular season, the team collected a runner-up finish at the SCAC Championship tournament and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship tournament.
The Bulldogs hosted an NCAA Regional Tournament in 2019 - one year removed from winning the Spokane, Wash. Regional and advancing to the NCAA Division III “World Series” in Appleton, Wis. The Bulldogs were the 2018 national runner-up in NCAA Division III.
Among the key returners for TLU is right-fielder Tyler Cauley, a three-year starter, two-time All-Region selection and 2018 All-American. The senior from Baytown, Texas enters his final year with the Bulldogs with a career average of .342 and career numbers of 23 home runs, 131 RBI, 35 doubles, 13 triples, 152 hits, 111 runs, 77 walks, and a career slugging percentage of .635.
Cauley, already sixth all-time at TLU for homers, is 10 home runs from moving into second place all-time. Already tied for second all-time for career triples, he is seven triples from breaking the school’s career mark of 20.
Cauley is on the cusp of moving into the university’s career top-five for RBI, doubles, slugging percentage, total bases, runs, at-bats, and walks.
Seven other position starters return to join Cauley in 2020. The Bulldogs will have a pair of Gold Glove defenders on defense. Cullen Motsinger, a redshirt junior from Houston, won the ABCA Gold Glove as an outfielder in 2019. Motsinger will start in center field for a second straight year. Motsinger did not make an error in 124 total chances last season. He also hit .327 with eight doubles, four triples, a home run, 39 runs scored, and 31 RBI.
Fifth-year senior catcher Spencer Brandt won the Gold Glove as the best NCAA D3 catcher in 2018. Brandt has played in 97 career games for the Bulldogs and has played error-free baseball in each of the last two seasons. He hasn’t made an error since April 21, 2017.
The remaining position starters include: first baseman Cole Irby (Honorable Mention All-SCAC), second baseman Austin Colon (First Team All-SCAC), shortstop Joe Jimenez (SCAC Freshman of the Year, Second Team All-SCAC), and outfielder/infielder Blade Strzelczyk (Honorable Mention All-SCAC). The Bulldogs also return designated hitter Nick Gardoni (Honorable Mention All-SCAC).
The pitching staff lost two-time All-American Nathan Malinovsky and the veteran arms of Drew Waller, Cody Rimko, and Dylan Murrell. Those four departed seniors combined for 17 victories and eight saves in 2019.
The Bulldogs bring back to the mound sophomore left-hander Matthew Hickey, an SCAC All-Tournament selection and All-SCAC Honorable Mention choice. Hickey tied for the team lead in wins, with six, in 2019. He went 6-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 49 innings of work. Opponents hit just .239 against him.
Joe Burch, Riley Backs, Landon Weatherly, Logan Fisher, Chase Cutler, Zach Perry, and Corey Golan all return after seeing varsity action on the mound in 2019.
Weatherly, a senior from Granbury, is 6-3 with two saves in his Bulldog career. He has a career ERA of 4.00 in 90 innings pitched.
Backs started the third-most games for TLU last season. The sophomore left-hander made 13 total appearances and six starts in his freshman campaign. He went 1-0 with a 5.34 ERA. He struck out 17 in 30.1 innings of work.
The Bulldogs will be led once again by Greg Burnett, who starts his 13th season as the team’s head coach. Burnett was named the SCAC Baseball Coach of the Year in 2019. Counting nine years as an assistant coach with TLU Baseball, Burnett is in his 22nd year with the Bulldogs.
Burnett is 337-186 in his previous 12 seasons with the Bulldogs. He is third all-time in TLU career baseball victories and second all-time in TLU baseball winning percentage (.644). Burnett is 162-69 (.701) all-time in conference play.