Monday, January 26, 2015

News digest, Jan. 26, part 2

Tigers picked third
CollegeBaseballDaily.com projects Clemson to finish third in the ACC's Atlantic Division behind Virginia and Louisville.

ACC Atlantic

ACC Coastal

NGU, Benedict may play at USC
First-year North Greenville coach Landon Powell and Benedict coach Selwyn Young are working to play a game at Carolina Stadium in Columbia April 13. Powell was a three-year standout for the Gamecocks.

State players honored
Pitcher Cordes Baker of Lexington, infielder Donald Gillespie of Flora and outfielder T.J. Hopkins of Summerville are first-team selections on Collegiate Baseball newspaper's preseason high school all-American team. Infielder Grant Cox of Greenville is a second-team choice. John Whittle of TheBigSpur.com reports Hopkins is a USC commitment. TheClemsonInsider.com reports Cox is a Clemson commitment.

Another Clemson commitment, LHP Jake Higginbotham of Buford, Ga., is a first-team choice
HS A-A

Poll
Collegiate Baseball high school baseball preseason rankings: 1. Lambert (Ga.). 17. Flora
CB HS

News digest, Jan. 26

D1baseball.com gets reboot
The Website D1baseball.com appears intent on being a player in college baseball coverage. The site has added Aaron Fitt, formerly of BaseballAmerica, Kendall Rogers, formerly of Perfectgame.org, and Mark Etheridge, formerly of SEBaseball.com.
D1baseball.com

Etheridge assesses SEC TV deal
Etheridge gives an analysis of the impact of the SEC Network and its heavy schedule of college baseball.
SEC

USC picked third in SEC East
South  Carolina is picked to finish third in the SEC East Division behind Vanderbilt and Florida according to D1Baseball.com
SEC D1BB

Drive hold preseason event
The Greenville Drive minor league team will hold their Hot Stove Event at 6 p.m. Feb. 4 in downtown Greenville.
Drive

Poll
Baseball America preseason rankings: 1. Vanderbilt. 13. South Carolina. 24. Clemson.
BA 25

2015 Palmetto.StateBaseball.com preview: The Citadel

Eighth in a series of 2015 season previews for college/junior college baseball programs in South Carolina. I've asked for responses from every school. I'll run all I receive. Some days, I may run more than one. I'll publicize all on Twitter (@palmettobase) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palmetto-State-Baseball-Blog/92994136001)


Mike Hoffman, the sports information director for The Citadel baseball, provided the preview.

    The Citadel enters the 2015 season looking to bounce back from a disappointing year and return to its place in the upper echelon of the Southern Conference.
    In order to achieve this goal, the Bulldogs must replace six position starters but have the majority of their pitching staff back, losing only Logan Cribb from the starting rotation. The bullpen is deep from both the left and right side, making that a strength of this year’s team.
    The offense will rely on the tradition hallmark of Citadel baseball – doing the little things which produce runs in a variety of ways but does not rely on the long ball – as the departed players accounted for 75 percent of the team’s extra base hits and nearly 70 percent of the RBIs.
    The SoCon is revamped this season with the departure of tournament champion Georgia Southern, regular season runner-up Davidson and a perennial strong Elon squad. But the league will have new contenders to deal with in addition to defending regular season champion Western Carolina and Samford, which lost a heartbreaker to the Eagles in the title game last May.
    Mercer and East Tennessee State are well-coached (the Buccaneers are led by Citadel Hall of Famer Tony Skole) and have made significant strides over the past few years. Military rival VMI also makes its return to the SoCon this year. The addition of those three programs will keep the SoCon among the top mid-major conferences in the nation.
   
Pitching
    The Bulldogs will benefit greatly from the return of left-hander James Reeves to the rotation. The redshirt junior was enjoying an outstanding season, including a 15-strikeout performance against Davidson, before elbow troubles forced him to miss the second half of the year.
    The work Reeves put in during the offseason has produced more flexibility in his hips and hamstrings with the goal of alleviating the stress on his elbow. The results in the fall were very encouraging, and he should be a solid Friday starter.
    Juniors Austin Mason and Austin Livingston have seen extensive work as weekend starters over the past two years and will be in the mix for that role again this spring. Both right-handers turned in the best strike zone percentages of their career in the fall, and the coaching staff  is excited about both taking the next step in their development.
    Junior Skylar Hunter will be an interesting pitcher to watch this season after a 2014 campaign which saw him tie the school record and rank 11th nationally with 15 saves. He has been used exclusively as the closer during his career and has racked up 28 saves, only one behind all-time Citadel leader Hank Kraft.
    Hunter is expected to be used as a “hybrid” in the vernacular used by Fred Jordan, meaning he will still close but can be employed as a spot starter as situations dictate, both on the weekend and in non-conference weekday action. Spring practice and the early part of the season will likely determine how that plays out.
    Freshmen JP Sears and Thomas Byelick will also compete for starting jobs after solid falls, with Sears (a lefty) capable of being used in multiple roles and Byelick (a righty) expected to develop into a weekend starter down the road. Sears struck out 96 batters in 55 innings as a senior at Wilson Hall and was the SCISA Player of the Year.
    Senior Zach Sherrill has appeared in 113 games as a reliable setup man, and he should be even more effective this year after undergoing offseason knee surgery. His rehab went extremely well, and the side-arming right-hander will pitch with a strong leg drive for the first time in his career.
    Senior left-hander Kevin Connell has always had good stuff but added a cutter to his repertoire and improved his strike percentage in the fall, with both leading to a dramatic increase in his confidence heading into the spring. Connell will join Sherrill, Sears and sophomore right-hander Zach Lavery as a closer by committee on days Hunter starts.
    Lavery, who earned four wins out of the bullpen last season, will also be used as a matchup reliever along with senior lefties Ross White and Connor Walsh. Freshmen identical twins Philip and Jacob Watcher, both right-handers, were impressive in the fall and will be utilized in the middle innings along with senior righty Brett Tompkins.
    Philip Watcher starred on the mound in last spring’s state playoffs, including a four-hit, 12-strikeout performance in the championship game.
    Freshman Kyle Smith is an experienced closer, having served in that role his final two years at Socastee High School including a berth on the High School Sports Report all-state team as a senior. After an outstanding fall, he could be the heir apparent to Hunter if he shows he can handle the spring environment.
   
Infield
    The veteran of the Bulldog infield is senior shortstop Johnathan Stokes, who assumed the starting role toward the end of his freshman season and has started 131 of the last 133 games. Although his batting average slumped to .254 last year he was still productive, contributing 10 doubles and 36 RBIs, the third-highest total on the team.
    In addition to his work at the plate and in the field, Stokes will be looked to for the experience and leadership that has always been a trademark of Citadel shortstops.
    There is also a veteran presence at third base with the return of senior Bailey Rush and junior Bret Hines. The duo split time during the first half of the 2014 season before Rush sustained a back injury which is now fully healed. Hines took advantage of the additional playing time to post a batting average of .272 with 13 RBIs.
    The determining factor of who will play the majority of the time will be the one who provides the most stability, particularly on defense. The other will be utilized in a matchup role or as the designated hitter. Freshman William Kinney can play both positions in addition to second and ranked very high on defense during fall evaluations.
    In contrast to the left side of the infield, the right side will have little experience after Bo Thompson and Mason Davis, both three-year starters, were drafted following their junior seasons and Calvin Orth graduated. Walsh and a trio of freshmen will man the first and second base spots.
    Walsh and Drew Ellis will compete at first base. Walsh got the first real opportunity of his career at the plate a year ago and proved to be an effective left-handed pinch hitter. Ellis was selected the top first baseman in South Carolina and 32nd best in the nation by Perfect Game and is an athletic, talented offensive player. Both players turned in productive offensive falls.
    The Watchers will platoon at second base with Jacob, a right-handed hitter, more advanced defensively as it is his natural position. Philip, who owns a left-handed stick, has adjusted nicely at second and is considered the shortstop of the future.
    The Bulldogs have stability behind the plate with the return of fifth-year senior Ryan Kilgallen, who took over the starting role last year and batted .278 with 16 RBIs while displaying a solid glove. Junior Stephen Windham was a reliable backup and spot starter and had the most impressive fall of his career.

Outfield
    The longtime starting trio of Drew DeKerlegand, Hughston Armstrong and Tyler Griffin have moved on, leaving the Bulldogs with inexperience in the outfield.
    Sophomore Austin Mapes shined in a pinch-hitting capacity last year, producing five RBI singles in that role including one in his first career at bat that helped The Citadel knock off Louisville. He has the potential to be a key cog in the middle of the Bulldog lineup if he develops the maturity needed to handle adversity.
    The expected starter in center is redshirt sophomore Jason Smith, who missed the second half of the 2014 season after breaking his hand in a play at the plate. He has shown flashes of his ability in his limited playing time but has to prove he can complete an entire season healthy.
    Mike Deese had a solid career at Brunswick Community College before transferring to The Citadel and sitting out the 2014 campaign. The redshirt junior enters the spring as a potential starter in right field, bringing with him a thorough knowledge of the strike zone and confidence built from a productive fall at the plate.
    Sophomore Barrett Charpia moved from shortstop and will serve in a utility role this year, possibly seeing action in both the outfield and infield. He played center field in high school, so the transition came easy for him. Charpia is also a leading candidate to be the right-handed designated hitter.
    Freshmen Clay Martin and Shy Phillips and redshirt sophomore Steven Hansen are also available for outfield duty, with Martin likely in center and Phillips in right with Hansen having the ability to play all three spots.
    Martin competed well in the fall and gives the coaches a left-handed option, while Phillips, who saw considerable action as a cornerback on the football team, is a raw talent but could be an impact freshman. Hansen turned in the most productive fall of any outfielder, both offensively and defensively, and can be used as a right-handed matchup hitter or designated hitter.
   
Next: Clemson   
   


Sunday, January 25, 2015

PalmettoStateBaseball.com poll results, Jan. 25

Who wins the SEC regular-season title?

Alabama
  1 (11%)
Arkansas
  0 (0%)
Auburn
  0 (0%)
Florida
  0 (0%)
Georgia
  0 (0%)
Kentucky
  0 (0%)
LSU
  0 (0%)
Mississippi
  0 (0%)
Mississippi State
  0 (0%)
Missouri
  0 (0%)
South Carolina
  1 (11%)
Tennessee
  0 (0%)
Texas A&M
  0 (0%)
Vanderbilt
  7 (77%)

Votes cast: 9

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 PalmettoStateBaseball.com preview: Furman

Seventh in a series of 2015 season previews for college/junior college baseball programs in South Carolina. I've asked for responses from every school. I'll run all I receive. Some days, I may run more than one. I'll publicize all on Twitter (@palmettobase) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palmetto-State-Baseball-Blog/92994136001)


Furman assistant athletics director/sports information Hunter Reid submitted this on behalf of coach Ron Smith


2015 FURMAN TEAM INFORMATION
2014 Overall Record: 26-33
2014 SoCon Regular Season Record (Finish): 11-15 (8th)
2014 SoCon Tournament Results: 3-2
Furman (No. 8) 6, UNCG (No. 9) 5 (11 Innings)
Furman 3, Western Carolina (No. 1) 2
Furman 3, Appalachian State (No. 5) 1
Georgia Southern (No. 4) 11, Furman 8
Georgia Southern 10, Furman 7 (12 Innings)
Lettermen Returning/Lost: 22/10
Position Starters Returning/Lost: 5/4
Weekend Starting Pitchers Returning/Lost: 1/2
Newcomers: 11 (11 Freshmen)
POSITION STARTERS RETURNING (5)
Pos. Name ..........................Yr.   Avg.  GP/GS    AB     R       H       HR   RBI    OB%
OF Jake Jones..................... Sr.....309.... 44/38.....234.....49...... 78........2......23......428
C Andrew MacLatchie........ Jr.....215.... 41/38.....107.....16...... 23........3......17......361
3B Chris Ohmstede............. Sr.....318.... 59/59.....233.....40...... 66......14......49......383
OF Sky Overton.................. So.....241.... 47/40.....145.....23..... 35........0......14......315
2B Jordan Simpson............. Jr.....295.... 59/59.....251......38...... 74........5......35......332
OTHER POSITION PLAYERS RETURNING (8)
OF Griffin Davis....................Jr.....255.... 39/25.....102.....11...... 26........0......11.... .355
C Zach Greenwell..............   Sr.....300...... 10/2.......10.......0........ 3........0........0.... .300
OF Carter Grote.................. So.....333.... 31/21.......96.....15...... 32........1......14..... 387
C Jake Kinsley....................  Sr.....250...... 11/1.......16.......2........ 4........0........1..... 294
DH Jarrod Rickman.............. Sr.....240...... 21/5.......25.......0........ 6........0........6.... .300
OF Kyle Simmons...............  So.....222...... 23/1.........9.......3........ 2........0........0.... .462
SS Matt Towarnicky............. Jr.....214...... 13/3.......14.......0........ 3........0........1.... .214
C Cameron Whitehead.....    So.....229.... 35/19.......83.....16...... 19........1........5.... .360
POSITION STARTERS LOST (4)
1B Alex Abrams..................Gr.....286.... 59/56.....213.....34...... 61........2......34......375
SS Hunter Burton...............Gr.....333.... 59/58.....234.....49...... 78........0......28......428
DH Greg Harrison..............Gr.....333.... 58/58.....231.....40...... 77........5......41......404
OF Heath Burton................Gr.....238.... 54/51.....185.....26...... 44........1......27......327
PITCHERS RETURNING/Min. 10.0 IP (6)
Pos. Name                               Yr.    W-L   ERA APP GS   SV  IP        H    ER   BB SO
LHP Billy Greenfield.............. So.....1-4.....6.69....26..... 2.....0... 39.0.....45... 29... 16.... 34
LHP Ryan Morse..................... Sr.....1-3.....4.97....16..... 1.....0... 25.1.....11... 14... 34.... 17
LHP Harry Norman................ So.....0-0.....3.75....13..... 1.....0... 12.0.....16..... 5..... 5...... 4
RHP Matthew Quarles........... So.....2-2.....5.62....17..... 7.....0... 41.2.....45... 26... 18.... 23
RHP Matt Solter..................... Sr.....3-5.....3.90....15... 15.....0... 90.0.....85... 39... 33.... 67
RHP Elliott Warford............... Sr.....2-4.....5.53....21..... 8.....1... 53.2.....71... 33... 25.... 35
OTHER PITCHERS RETURNING (8)
RHP Teddy Andrews............. Jr.......... .INJ (‘14)
RHP Paul Barnbill.................. So.......... .DNP (‘14)
RHP Cullen Cosco................ R-Fr.......... .DNP (‘14)
RHP Will Dvorak.................... So.......... .DNP (‘14)
RHP Steven Fondu................ Jr.......... .INJ (‘14)
RHP Ryan Griffith.................. Jr.....0-0...20.25......6..... 0.....0..... 2.2.......6..... 6..... 6...... 1
RHP Nolan Mullen................. So....0-0.....0.00......1..... 0.....0..... 1.2.......2..... 0..... 1...... 0
RHP Jake Wolff..................... Sr.....0-0...13.50......7..... 0.....0..... 6.0.....10..... 9..... 8...... 4
PITCHERS LOST/Min. 10.0 IP (5)
RHP Alex Abrams..................Gr.....8-3.....5.50....24..... 5.....2... 54.0.....62... 35... 19.... 55
RHP Jacques de Gruy.....................4-4.....5.61....19... 10.....0... 69.0.....66... 43... 31.... 66
LHP Ryan Dittmar.................Gr.....0-3...12.00....17..... 1.....0... 15.0.....28... 20... 10.... 12
RHP Brant Masters................Gr.....0-2.....5.62....32..... 0.....4... 32.0.....45... 20... 10.... 17
RHP Tyler Wood....................Gr.....5-2.....4.73....18..... 9.....0... 66.2.....75... 35... 19.... 55
OTHER PITCHERS LOST (2)
RHP Anthony Buonopane......Gr.....0-1.....4.91....11..... 0.....0... 14.2.....12..... 8..... 6.... 13
RHP Greg Harrison................Gr.....0-0.....3.00......8..... 0.....2..... 6.0.......8..... 2..... 5...... 5
NEWCOMERS (9)
Pos. Name Yr. Hometown/Last School
SS/OF.........Michael Campoamor........ Fr......Wesley Chapel, Fla./Wiregrass Ranch HS
RHP............ Brandon Casas.................. Fr................. Charlotte, N.C./W.A. Hough HS
RHP/INF..... Blake Chisolm................... Fr.......Friendswood, Texas/Clear Springs HS
INF/RHP..... Brandon Elmy................... Fr............................ Nokomis, Fla./Venice HS
RHP............Will Gaddis....................... Fr................. Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood HS
INF/RHP..... Sims Griffith..................... Fr.................. Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville HS
OF/RHP...... Landon Kay....................... Fr.................. Charlotte, N.C./Weddington HS
LHP............Grant Schuermann........... Fr...................Cincinnati, Ohio/Lakota West HS
INF/RHP..... Stephen Skruck................. Fr................................. Marietta, Ga./Pope HS

Click here for Furman's complete preseason information packet.

Next: TBA. I've published all the responses I've received.
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

NCAA DI teams begin practice today

NCAA Division I baseball teams can begin practice today, but if their weather is anything like we're experiencing in  the Upstate, any work done may have to be in the inside batting cages.

The season for DI teams begins Feb. 13.

For those of you who can't wait, there are some games on the NAIA, NCAA DII and junior college level  beginning next weekend.

Here are links to some schools' previews of first day of practice.

Clemson

Furman

South Carolina 

Winthrop

2015 PalmettoStateBaseball.com preview: Winthrop

Sixth in a series of 2015 season previews for college/junior college baseball programs in South Carolina. I've asked for responses from every school. I'll run all I receive. Some days, I may run more than one. I'll publicize all on Twitter (@palmettobase) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palmetto-State-Baseball-Blog/92994136001)

Winthrop coach Tom Riginos submitted this season preview for the Eagles

After coming off their most successful Big South Tournament run since 2009 and a Big South Conference Southern Division title, Winthrop Head Coach Tom Riginos feels 2015 will be a special season for the Eagles.

The season kicks off on February 13 with a four-game series against nationally ranked Kent State at The Winthrop Ballpark.

“Since winning the Southern Division title and making that run in the conference tournament like we did, I think this team has a lot of confidence,” said Riginos. “I think sometimes you know when you have a special team and are going to have a special season, and I feel that right now with this team going into the season.”

Experience and depth will be key components for the Eagles success this season as the 2015 roster includes 22 returning players and 11 newcomers.

“We have a lot of guys coming back,” Riginos said. “We are excited about the depth and the experience we have. With the freshman and  junior college transfers we’ve recruited and the returners getting better, I feel really good about the lineup we can put on the field.”

Riginos says that much of the off-season has been focused on improving base running and becoming more dynamic offensively. According to Riginos, “Running the bases was a point of emphasis in the fall and we will continue that into the season.”

The strength of this year’s team will be on the mound. Riginos has a staff of 17 pitchers, including returning starters Sam Kmiec, Joey Strain, Matt Crohan, Josh Strong and Zach Sightler. All are coming off strong 2014 seasons and projected to earn starting spots in the rotation or in the closer’s role.
 “Any time you have a guy like Sam Kmiec, who pitched in the conference final, and Joey Strain who is going into his third year, you have reason for excitement,” adds Riginos.

Kmiec, a redshirt junior southpaw, pitched a team high 103.2 innings including seven in the conference tournament final. He compiled a 6-4 record while throwing a conference-high four complete games, and finishing with a 2.95 earned run average. Strain is being moved to the closer this year after he finished 2014 with a 6-3 record with 68.1 innings of work and a 4.38 earned run average.

Riley Arnone, a freshman left handed thrower out of Williamsport, MD, is expected to make an immediate impact on the pitching staff. According to Riginos, “Riley had a real good fall and is very mature for his age. He is a player that does all the little things.”

Sightler appeared in 22 games with 14 starts last season and compiled an earned run average of 3.44. Strong enters his senior year coming off a 2-5 season with three saves and a 3.01 earned run average.

Crohan had a 4.37 earned run average in his freshmen campaign that consisted of 17 appearances and five starts. Senior Travis Shelley also returns for the Eagles this year after posting a 4-1 record and staff’s lowest ERA of 2.54.

All 17 pitchers are healthy and competing for a role this season, according to Riginos. This includes seniors Michael Green and Austin Lawrence, Sophomores Kaden Hepler and Justin Pace, Michael Gilroy, Ryan Owens freshmen Zack Cook, Freddie Sultan, Carson Gregory and Sean Campbell. 

The Eagles’ coach has five outfielders that he feels comfortable using and may call upon throughout the season. Senior John Menken is the projected starter in centerfield. He played in a team high 60 games last season, hitting .248 with nine triples, and 21 runs batted in. “John is projected to hit in the middle of the order and is pretty set in the outfield with his experience from last year.”

Riginos is expecting Jace Whitley, a redshirt junior from Locust, NC, to compete for the duties in right field. “We are looking for Jace to return to the form he showed during a very solid freshman year.” Because of his bat, Babe Thomas is projected to be in the lineup as either a catcher, designated hitter or in outfield. Tyler Asbill, a redshirt junior from Lexington, SC, and USC Sumter transfer Anthony Paulsen will also be competing for playing time in the outfield.

Riginos is looking for junior college transfer Roger Gonzalez to handle most of the catching duties with Thomas being available, also. Garrett Rast, a freshman from Rock Hill’s Northwestern High School, will also be available for catching duties this year. 

“I feel like we’re going to have the best catching combination in the conference with Roger and Babe,” said Riginos. . “I think Gonzalez is going to be a great leader and is a very good defensive catcher. He is a switch hitter, as well, and is going to be a very tough out at the plate.”

The Eagles’ infield will be very versatile this season, with a blend of veterans and newcomers who can handle several different positions. Junior Kyle Edwards, who has been the starting shortstop for the past two years, will handle that position once again after starting 57 games in 2014. Senior Brad Kaczka is expected to handle the hot corner at third base after a solid season for the Eagles last year as a transfer from Monroe Community College. According to Riginos, “Brad probably had the best fall of anyone on the team.”

Rock Hill product Chad Smith, another senior, will be called upon for his experience and versatility in the infield. “Chad can play all over the infield,” Riginos says. “He has a lot of experience in our program as a fifth-year senior.”

Freshmen Jake Sullivan and Mitch Spires will compete for playing time in the infield with both being able to play a number of positions. Riginos says, “Mitch has the ability to play third and second base, and Jake has an opportunity to be a very good player for us.”

Riginos expects redshirt junior Mark Lowrie to compete for the duties at first base. “He has done a really good job of getting better every year,” said Riginos.  “This is Mark’s year to step up and be a productive player for us.”  Also expected to contribute at first base will be senior Clay Altman, who saw action in 39 games last year as a designated hitter and first baseman.

The 2015 schedule shapes up to be another challenging one for the Eagles, Winthrop will play 35 home games beginning with the opening four-game series with Kent State.  Other non-conference home games will include three-game series against Toledo, Jacksonville, Maryland Eastern-Shore, and nationally ranked Kennesaw State.

The Eagles will also face The Citadel, USC Upstate, Davidson, East Tennessee and Charlotte at home in addition to Big South Conference series against Gardner-Webb, High Point, UNC Asheville and Presbyterian College.

Highlighting the road games will be contests against national powers North Carolina, Clemson and South Carolina.

The Big South Conference Championship tournament will be held May 19-23 at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C.

Next: Furman