Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 PalmettoStateBaseball.com preview: Limestone

Tenth 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)


Preview provided by Michael Sanders, student sports information assistant at Limestone

2014 Record: 21-30 (8-13 in Conference Carolinas)
Mascot: Saints
Conference: Conference Carolinas
Head Coach: Chris Wiley (1st year)
Associate Head Coach: Matt Hayes
Assistant Coaches: Kincaid Koehler, Chris Nall, Taylor Hollifield
Key Retunees: Jose Rondon, Chris Scura, Mike Gonzalez, Kyle Booth

The Saints look to open up the 2015 season on a different foot than that of the 2014 season under the tutelage of first-year head coach Chris Wiley. Wiley is no stranger to the helm as he led the Campbell University Camels for one year back in 2007. Limestone has been picked to finish sixth in the preseason poll released by Conference Carolinas on January 23.

Returning for the Blue and Gold on the mound is senior Jose Rondon who put up impressive numbers in his first year on campus.  He made 13 starts while making an appearance in 14 total games, earning a 6.29 ERA.  Posted team highs in strikeouts (40) and innings pitched (73) on his way to a 5-8 record.
Also returning for the Saints is outfielder Mike Gonzalez.  Appearing in 34 games for the Blue and Gold last year he earned a .234 batting average as well as .289 OBP.  Scored 13 runs for LC while also providing crucial hits to set up runners in scoring positions throughout the season. 

Chris Scura will continue to make his name known in the dugout coming of a season in which he batted in 30 RBI’s while scoring 30 runs himself.  Posted a .316 batting average as well as .955 fielding percentage only commiting three errors on the year.  Started in 50 out of 50 games that he played in while earning 17 multiple hit games throughout the season.

Limestone also returns its best batting average (min. 30 ab) from last year with Kyle Booth.  He amassed a .355 batting average on 186 at-bats.  He also finished tied for second on the team in RBI’s with 34.  Earned a .988 fielding percentage in his first base position.

The Saints will open up their season on February 4 as they welcome in the Eagles of Carson-Newman University.  Game time is set for 2 p.m.


Next: Florence-Darlington Tech

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

News digest, Jan. 27

Bearcats, Pacers honored
Three baseball players from Lander and three from USC Aiken have been named to the preseason all-conference team for the Peach Belt Conference.

Lander is represented by third baseman Colby Painter, outfielder Weston Lawing and pitcher Brandon White. USCA placed shortstop Sean Miller, outfielder Tyler Moore and designated hitter Matt Bosse.
PBC

Poll
NCJAA DI preseason poll
1. Iowa Western. 16. Spartanburg Methodist.
NJCAA

2015 PalmettoStateBaseball.com preview: Clemson

Ninth 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)


Brian Hennessy, the sports information director for Clemson baseball, provided the quick facts.
 
Head Coach: Jack Leggett (Maine ‘76)
Record at Clemson: 923-451-1 (21 seasons)
Overall Record: 1300-741-1 (35 seasons)
Associate Head Coach: Dan Pepicelli (SUNY Cortland ‘90)
Assistant Head Coach & Recruiting Coordinator: Bradley LeCroy (Clemson ‘01)
Volunteer Assistant Coach: Stephen Faris (Clemson ‘13)
Student Assistant Coach: Taylor Harbin (Sr. • Travelers Rest, S.C.)
Director of Baseball Operations: Brad Owens (Anderson (S.C.) ‘06)

2015 TEAM INFORMATION
Lettermen Returning:
23
Lettermen Lost:
9
2014 Starting Position Players Returning (5): Steven Duggar (RF), Tyler Krieger (SS),
Chris Okey (C), Tyler Slaton (CF), Weston Wilson (3B)
2014 Starting Position Players Lost (4): Jay Baum (CF), Garrett Boulware (DH),
Shane Kennedy (1B), Steve Wilkerson (2B)
2014 Starting Pitchers Returning (4):
Matthew Crownover (L), Zack Erwin (L),
Jake Long (R), Clate Schmidt (R)
2014 Starting Pitchers Lost (1): Daniel Gossett (R)
2014 All-ACC Players Returning (3): Matthew Crownover (SP),
Steven Duggar (OF), Tyler Krieger (SS)
2014 All-ACC Players Lost (4): Jay Baum (OF), Garrett Boulware (DH/UT),
Daniel Gossett (SP), Steve Wilkerson (2B)
Newcomers (15): Charlie Barnes (LHP), Glenn Batson (3B/1B); K.J. Bryant (OF), Paul Campbell (RHP), Alex Eubanks (RHP), Mike Goren (RHP), Jack Huggins (IF), Robert Jolly (C), Pat Krall (LHP), Chase Pinder (IF/OF), Adam Renwick (IF), Alex Schnell (LHP), Hunter Van Horn (LHP), Taylor Vetzel (LHP), Drew Wharton, OF/1B; 

RETURNING LEADERS
Batting Average:
Tyler Krieger (.338)
Games: Steven Duggar, Chris Okey, Tyler Slaton (61)
Runs:
Tyler Krieger (49)
Hits:
Tyler Krieger (74)
Doubles: Tyler Krieger (18)
Home Runs:
Chris Okey (4)
RBIs: Chris Okey (41)
Stolen Bases: Steven Duggar (25)
ERA: Matthew Crownover (2.90)
Wins:
Matthew Crownover (8)
Appearances: Drew Moyer (28)
Saves: Zack Erwin, Drew Moyer (2)
Innings Pitched: Matthew Crownover (99.1)
Strikeouts: Matthew Crownover (90)

2014 REVIEW
Record:
36-25 Overall, 22-12 Home, 11-9 Away, 3-4 Neutral
ACC Regular-Season Record (Finish):
15-14 (T-2nd (Atlantic))
ACC Tournament Record (Finish): 2-1 (T-3rd)
NCAA Tournament Record:
0-2 in Nashville (Tenn.) Regional

Click here for Clemson rosters, schedule, stats, etc.

Next: Limestone

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