|Hollenbeck, Mirabal take on new roles in 2012|
|Written by Todd Marver, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Wednesday, 02 May 2012 12:31|
What a difference a year makes.
ISU baseball finished with a 13-8 mark, good for a No. 3 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament last season, just two games behind first-place Creighton.
This year, the Redbirds currently sport a 5-8 record in the conference and sit in seventh place, just 2.5 games ahead of the eighth place and cellar-dweller Creighton.
However, that is not the only change between the 2011 and 2012 campaigns for ISU.
Last season, sophomore Mike Hollenbeck and senior Matt Mirabal both exclusively played a single position.
Hollenbeck regularly served as the designated hitter, while Mirabal was the everyday catcher behind the plate.
However, this season both Mirabal and Hollenbeck’s roles changed as the duo now rotates between playing catcher and serving as the designated hitter. Mirabal has been behind the plate 20 times, while Hollenbeck has served as the catcher 17 times.
Switching off between the two positions rather than exclusively playing a single position has led to greater offensive success for the duo as Mirabal is hitting .338 with three long balls and 19 RBIs. In 2011, the senior earned just a .247 batting average with no home runs and 25 RBIs.
Meanwhile, Hollenbeck has a batting average of .290 with three homers and 33 RBIs. His batting average increased from a year ago at .265, registering three home runs with 42 RBIs.
Mirabal has embraced the opportunity to serve as the designated hitter more often for the Redbirds than in years past.
“I’ve never [designated hit] in my life before,” he said. “I’ve always been in the field, so it’s definitely a different experience. But I’ve grown into it. I love helping [Hollenbeck] out and it’s a great experience.”
Hollenbeck has enjoyed being a larger part of the action this season by having more playing time at the catcher position. The sophomore also exhibits different attitudes and has a different mindset depending on whether he is playing catcher or serving as the designated hitter in a game.
“Last year it was more difficult because I was just [designated hitting] the entire time and this year it is easier to be involved in games instead of just sitting out and waiting to hit,” Hollenbeck said.
“When you’re catching, you’re more involved in the game because you’re involved in every pitch,” he added. “With DH’ing, you really have to focus on your next at-bat. With catching, you have to forget about that last at-bat and play in the field. DH-ing takes a toll on you because you think about bad at-bats more.”
The duo trading off at the catcher position has come in handy during a three-game series, because whoever catches the first game of the series can relay information such as the opposing squad’s offensive tendencies to his counterpart that will be behind the plate for the next game of the series.
“We know the same lineup is coming up the next day, so [Hollenbeck] will tell me which guys are swinging at what pitches if [pitching] coach [Bill] Mohl doesn’t see it,” Mirabal said.
Catchers experience a lot of wear and tear over a long season, so it also helps to reduce the stress by having the duo rotate between playing catcher and being the designated hitter.
“Everyone always talks about how catchers have a short lifespan in baseball and this way it doesn’t put pressure on either one of us,” Hollenbeck said. “Sometimes he’ll have three games and I only have one [in a week] or I’ll have three and he’s only got one. It’s good to keep us both fresh to switch off.”
After a pair of road game cancellations due to rain against Creighton Sunday and Illinois Wesleyan Tuesday, the Redbirds return to the diamond Friday through Sunday against Southern Illinois at Duffy Bass Field with the final contest serving as BaseBald Day to raise money for cancer research.