Conference USA 2010 Baseball Preview

January 13, 2010
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Which ’09 Super Regional Team Will Reign In 2010?

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2009 Regular Season Champ:  East Carolina

2009 Tournament Champ:  Rice beat Southern Miss. 8-6

2009 was arguably the most successful season in Conference USA baseball history.  C-USA’s traditional power, Rice, didn’t make it to the College World Series, but Southern Mississippi’s Cinderella run to Omaha made it five straight years that the conference was represented at the CWS.  Only the Pac-10 and SEC have sent at least one team to Omaha every year in the same span.

For the first time in conference history three C-USA teams also advanced to Super Regional play (Southern Miss.,

East Carolina slugger Kyle Roller

Rice & East Carolina).  All three teams are ranked in the 2010 preseason polls.

C-USA also has five preseason All-Americans heading into the 2010 campaign.

East Carolina

2009 Record:  (46-20, 17-7)

Mascot:  Pirates

Head Coach:  Billy Godwin

Location:  Greenville, NC

Vitals: .339 BA, 108 HR, .415 OBP, .971 Fld%…4.48 ERA, 513 K, 212 BB, .268 opp. BA

Missed It By That Much:  East Carolina advanced to a Super Regional after hosting an NCAA Regional last year, but North Carolina beat ECU to advance to a 4th straight College World Series.

Cape Crusher:  2009 Cape Cod League MVP Kyle Roller (.336, 16 HR, 75 RBIs) is back to lead the Pirate offense this season.  Roller helped the Bourne Braves win their first ever Cape Championship.

Supporting Cast: Devin Harris (.344, 14 HR, 48 RBIs) and Dustin Harrington (.318, 14 HR, 49 RBIs) are back to bat in the middle of the order as well.

Tough To Replace:  While three strong bats are back for ECU, they also lose three big hitters in Stephen Batts (.352, 14 HR, 19 SB),  Brandon Henderson (.330, 13 HR) and Ryan Wood (.379, 14 HR, 14 SB).

Arms Race:  East Carolina returns three starters who won at least nine games in 2009 as well as their closer – Brad Mincey (10-5, 3.16 ERA), Kevin Brandt (9-2, 3.64 ERA), Seth Maness (9-3, 4.71 ERA), Seth Simmons (3-1, 3.69 ERA, 9 SVs).

Early Tests:  ECU opens the season by hosting three games vs. 2009 CWS participant Virginia.  Two weeks later the Pirates host a 3-game set with South Carolina.

Houston

2009 Record:  (27-31, 13-11)

Mascot:  Cougars

Head Coach:  Rayner Noble

Location:  Houston, TX

Vitals:  .282 BA, 25 HR, .364 OBP, .966 Fld%…5.48 ERA, 453 K, 237 BB, .294 opp. BA

Bring It On:  Houston plays 10 teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year, including CWS teams Texas (1), Arizona State (3) and Southern Mississippi (3).

Pass On The Pulp:  The Cougars face Texas, Missouri and Texas Tech at the Houston College Classic in the Astros’ Minute Maid Park the first weekend of March.

Speed Over Power:  Houston hit just 25 home runs last year, with Chris Wallace (9 HR) being the only player to hit more than 4 home runs.  However, the Cougars had 69 stolen bases on the season.

Solid Nucleus:  Wallace (.285, 34 RBIs) is one of three Houston players who played at Cape Cod last summer.  He’s joined by Blake Kelso (.335, 2 HR, 23 RBIs, 12 SB) & Caleb Ramsey (.332, 4 HR, 46 RBIs, 16 SB) both played for Yarmouth-DennisZak Presley (.301, 28 RBIs, 17 SB) is back as well.

Marshall

2009 Record:  (22-32, 9-15)

Mascot:  Thundering Herd

Head Coach:  Jeff Waggoner

Location:  Huntington, WVI

Vitals:  .280 BA, 58 HR, .364 OBP, .943 Fld%…5.45 ERA, 1 CG, 8 SV, 414 K, 290 BB, .276 opp. BA

Give ‘Em A Buckeye:  Marshall plays Ohio State on a neutral site in Tennessee in March and then in Columbus, OH

Marshall closer Austin Coan

in April.

Get It To The Pen:  Sr. closer Austin Coan earned all 8 of Marshall’s saves in 2009.  Coan (3-5, 3.49 ERA, 8 SVs) made 23 appearances with 45 Ks in 38.1 IP with a .217 opp. BA.  He once helped Grayson (TX) win the Juco national championship.

Big Bopper:  Jr. 1B/C Victor Gomez (.332, 18 HR, 62 RBIs) is back to anchor the offense.  Gomez has smacked 29 home runs in his first two seasons.

Memphis

2009 Record:  (21-32, 7-16)

Mascot:  Tigers

Head Coach:  Daron Schoenrock

Location:  Memphis, TN

Vitals:  .272 BA, 34 HR, .350 OBP, .959 Fld%…6.30 ERA, 0 CG, 11 SV, .300 opp. BA

Mound Presence:  Memphis returns 11 pitchers (including all five starters) from last year’s staff.  Among the returnees Marcus Barnes and Heith Hatfield combined for 31 appearances and five saves in 2009.  The three pitchers the Tigers lose combined for two wins last season.

Experience Counts:  The Tigers have seven starters back in the field.  The group combined for just 15 homes but still had 72 doubles.  Drew Martinez (.309, 11 doubles) and Adam McClain (.288, 11 doubles) were both named to the C-USA All-Freshman team.

New Digs:  Memphis will play home games in the new 2,000 seat FedEx Park beginning in February.  The $3 million dollar project is part of the renovation of Nat Buring Stadium, which was built in 1972.

Rice

2009 Record:  (43-18, 16-8)

Mascot:  Owls

Head Coach:  Wayne Graham

Location:  Houston, TX

Vitals:  .320 BA, 71 HR, .392, .971…4.21 ERA, 7 CG, 16 SVs, .257 opp. BA

Rice's Anthony Rendon

Freshman PhenomAnthony Rendon (.388, 20 HR, 72 RBIs) had the Rice team triple crown as a true freshman in ’09.  He had an 1.163 OPS.

Supporting Cast:  Rice always has a line-up filled with tough outs, and 2010 will be no exception.  Back with Rendon in the order are Steven Stultzbaugh (.324, 8 HR, 31 RBIs), Rick Hague (.319, 9 HR, 57  RBIs), Chad Mozingo (.319, 8 HR, 50 RBIs) and Diego Seastrunk (.288, 7 HR, 45 RBIs).  Seastrunk hit .353 as a sophomore, but struggled a bit last year due to injury last year.

On The MoundMike Ojala (5-0, 2.17 ERA) and Taylor Wall (7-6, 3.72 ERA)are back to lead the rotation.  The Owls lose Ryan Berry (7-2, 2.42 ERA, 4 CG).

More Than A LegacyMatt Reckling (2 2, 5.84 ERA, 2 SVs) made 20 appearances with 3 starts.  Rice’s home field is named after his grandfather, T.R. Reckling, who played for the Owls from 1952-’54.

Southern Mississippi

2009 Record:  (40-26, 12-12)

Mascot:  Golden Eagles

Head Coach:  Scott Berry

Location:  Hattiesburg, MS

Vitals:  .305 BA, 73 HR, .399 OBP, .966 Fld%…5.14 ERA, 2 CG, 17 SVs, 438 K, 250 BB, .285 opp. BA

New Man In ChargeCorky Palmer announced his retirement last April & then USM road a hot streak all the way to the College World Series.  Scott Berry now takes over the Golden Eagle helm after 9 seasons as an assistant to

Todd McInnis

Palmer.

Pitching Prowess:  Southern Miss. returns Jr. closer Collin Cargill (3.55, 4-3, 13 SVs) as well as Jr. starter Todd McInnis (9-4, 3.73 ERA).  Both have redshirt years under their belts.

Key ReturneesKameron Brunty (.336, 7 HR, 53 RBIs), Joey Archer (.306, 10 HR, 62 RBIs),  Taylor Walker (.305, 3 HR, 29 RBIs) as is B.A. Vollmuth who went from the College World Series straight to the Cape Cod League as a true freshman.

Big Bat LostBo Davis (.359, 14 HR, 53 RBIs, 10 SB)

Tulane

2009 Record:  (34-25, 13-11)

Mascot:  Green Wave

Head Coach:  Rick Jones

Location:  New Orleans, LA

Vitals:  .292 BA, 69 HR, .396 OBP, .968 Fld%…4.63 ERA, 6 CG, 13 SVs, .269 opp. BA

No Ordinary Jones:  Head coach Rick Jones has led the Green Wave to the NCAA Tournament in 12 of his 16 seasons at the Tulane helm, including College World Series berths in 2001 & 2005.

My Cousin Joe:  Jr. closer Nick Pepitone (9 SVs, 3.25 ERA) is the cousin of former big leaguer Joe Pepitone.

Holes To Fill:  Tulane loses its top three hitters in Josh Prince (.353, 48 SB), Sam Honeck (.313, 16 HR, 70 RBIs) & Scott Powell (.311, 18 SB).

Top Bat In The RackJeremy Schaffer (.311, 14 HR, 56 RBIs) is Tulane’s top retuning hitter.

UAB

2009 Record:  (31-26, 11-12)

Mascot:  Blazers

Head Coach:  Brian Shoop

Location:  Birmingham, AL

Vitals:  .305 BA, 58 HR, .400 OBP, .957 Fld%…5.91 ERA, 1 CG, 10 SVs, .288 opp. BA

Packing Some PopDigger Towe, Andrew Manning and Luke Stewart combined to hit 34 home runs last year.

Speed To BurnJonathon Merritt, Jamal Austin and Nick Crawford totaled 55 stolen bases in 2009…but the departed Brint Hardy swiped 46 by himself.

Central Florida

2009 Record:  (22-35, 9-15)

Mascot:  Knights

Head Coach:  Terry Rooney

Location:  Orlando, FL

Vitals:  .297 BA, 68 HR, .377 OBP, .957 Fld%…7.47 ERA, 0 CG, 13 SVs, .341 opp. BA

Soak Up The Sun:  UCF plays its first 22 games in Florida, including home and home gaves vs. Miami and a trip to Gainesville vs. Florida.

Power Outage:  UCF loses Brandon Romans and Kiko Vazquez who combined to hit 27 home runs in 2009.

Not So FastRomans is back on the UCF coaching staff this season as the volunteer assistant.

Tools Of Distinction:  Soph. catcher Beau Taylor was named a Freshma All-American last season, making him the first UCF catcher to ever earn the honor.

Conference USA Predictions

2010 Champion:  Rice, but East Carolina and Southern Mississippi should make the race close.

2010 Player of the Year:  Kyle Roller – East Carolina

2010 Pitcher of the Year:  Mike Ojala – Rice

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