Big South Baseball 2010 Preview

February 9, 2010
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Can Anyone End Coastal Carolina’s Dominance?

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2009 Regular Season Champion: Coastal Carolina

2009 Tournament Champion: Coastal Carolina defeated Winthrop 7-1 to win their 7th Big South title in the past 9 yearsl

Coastal Carolina continued its dominance of this conference by once again sweeping the regular season and tournament championships, while making its 9th straight NCAA tournament appearance.  The Chanticleers also saw 5 members of their squad garner All-American recognition, with three players named Freshman All-American.

Heading into the season all eyes are on Coastal Carolina again, as they begin this season ranked anywhere from 12th to 17th in the various preseason polls.  So the question is, can anyone contend with Coastal Carolina in 2010?

2010 Big South Preview

Charleston Southern

2009 Season: (16-37, 10-16)

Nickname: Buccaneers

Head Coach: Stuart Lake

Location: Charleston, SC

Vitals: .288 BA, 51 HR, .355 OBP, .961 Fld. %…7.00 ERA, 3 CG, 5 SVs, 316 K, 237 BB, .324 Opp. BA

Offensive Bounty: Charleston Southern returns 3 of their top 4 hitters from last year including top hitter Jr. 1B Nick Chinners (.339, 13 doubles, .408 OBP), So. UTL Patrick Dolan (.309, 8 HR, 35 RBI) and Sr. OF Scotty Radabaugh (.300, 51 H, 27 R).  They also welcome back their top power threat in Jr. OF Tyler Thornburg (.292, 12 HR, 49 RBI)

Double Duty: In addition to his power, Thornburg could be the top returning pitcher for CSU as well.  Last year, Thornburg went 4-4 with a 3.73 ERA and a SV in 16 appearances out of the pen.

Friendly Start: The Buccaneers play 12 of their first 13 games at home with the lone road trip coming against city rival the College of Charleston in Patriots Point, SC.

Coastal Carolina

2009 Season: (47-16, 21-5)

Nickname: Chanticleers

Head Coach: Gary Gilmore

Location: Conway, SC

Vitals: .329, 86 HR, .419 OBP, .968 Fld. %…4.04 ERA, 1 CG, 19 SVs, 456 K, 201 BB, .250 Opp. BA

These Guys are Good: Coastal Carolina earned its 9th straight trip to the NCAA tournament and swept the

Cody Wheeler

conference regular season and tournament championships while placing 5 players on the All-conference 1st team.  They also appear to have the upper hand in accomplishing that feat again with 7 of 9 position starters and 8 pitchers back.

Big Returns: The Chanticleers will have to replace Big South Player of the Year David Anderson (.377, 21 HR, 82 RBI), but do have a wealth of talent back with the return of Sr. Adam Rice (.368, 20 doubles, 59 RBI) and preseason Big South Player of the Year Jr. Rico Noel (.315, 8 HR, 48 SB).  The pitching staff also brings back key guys, including 2009 Big South Pitcher of the Year Jr. LHP Cody Wheeler (10-1, 3.83 ERA, 1 CG, 98 K) and So. RHP Anthony Meo (9-2, 2.93 ERA, .233 Opp. BA)

Challenges Aplenty: The Chants have several tough games on their schedule this year.  Games against Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Wake Forest, UC-Irvine, NC State, Michigan, Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia all dot the slate.

Gardner-Webb

2009 Season: (25-25, 13-14)

Nickname: Runnin’ Bulldogs

Head Coach: Rusty Stroupe

Location: Boiling Springs, NC

Vitals: .327 BA, 65 HR, .398 OBP, .964 Fld. %…6.57 ERA, 2 CG, 9 SVs, 247 K, 173 BB

Record Setting: The 2009 GW squad was the most prolific offensive team in nearly 40 years.. they set single season school records for team batting average (.327), HRs (65), slugging percentage (.512), and on-base percentage (.398).

Leaders Gone: The Bulldogs will have plenty of holes to fill this season as all four players earning All-Big South accolades have graduated.  3B Justin Loyd (.400, 20 doubles, 9 HR, 56 RBI) and OF Brock Miller (.373, 61 R, 37 SB) both earned 1st team honors.  OF Daniel Cooke (.353, 7 HR, 47 RBI) was a 2nd team selection, while OF Jonathan Ahearn (.327, 29 R, 8 doubles) garnered 3rd team honors.  Ahearn was also named Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

High Point

2009 Season: (21-32, 11-12)

Nickname: Panthers

Head Coach: Craig Cozart

Location: High Point, NC

Vitals: .317 BA, 22 HR, .401 OBP, .969 Fld. %…7.39 ERA, 8 SVs, 308 K, 226 BB, .345 Opp. BA

Prolific Pair of Panthers: High Point will miss the duo of Billy Alvino and Alfie Wheeler.  Both finished the season batting a team-leading .400.  Alvino collected 84 hits and Wheeler tallied 82 for the second and third most in a single season.  The pair also finished third and fourth, respectively, in career hits with 238 and 235.  The Panthers will also miss all-time career hit leader Jeff Cowan (.290, 60 H, 11 doubles) who finished his career with 268.

Pitching Holes: The Panthers graduate their best pitcher as well in Jeremy Berg (4-2, 1.88 ERA, 5 SVs) who was just 5 innings short of qualifying for the national ERA race.  His 1.88 ERA would have been 5th best in the country.  This year, look for Jr. RHP Corey Swickle (2-2, 4.81, 2 SVs) and  Jr. RHP Spencer Andrews (1-0, 2.79 ERA, 7 APP) to log more time on the mound.

Home Presence: High Point could get off to a fast start.  18 of their first 21 games are at home, with their 3 road games still within North Carolina (UNC—Charlotte, North Carolina A&T, East Carolina).

Liberty

2009 Season: (33-21, 17-9)

Nickname: Flames

Head Coach: Jim Toman

Location: Lynchburg, VA

Vitals: .310 BA, 60 HR, .388 OBP, .974 Fld. %…5.27 ERA, 2 CG, 11 SVs, 390 K, 171 BB, .295 Opp. BA

Looking for More in ’10: The 33-wins last year marked the fifth straight season Liberty won 30 or more games, the

Doug Bream

first time in program history.  Also, their 17 conference wins were the most ever recorded since joining the conference in 1992.

Youth Movement: The Flames currently have 14 freshman or sophomores on their roster.  Returning to lead the team is Freshman All-American Tyler Bream (.337, 8 HR, 57 RBI) and Jr. OF Doug Bream (.355, 6 HR, 33 RBI).  Tyler is the son of former Major League Sid Bream, who was an All-American at Liberty (1979-’81).  Doug Bream is Sid’s cousin.

Pitching Prowess: Liberty deals with the loss of All-Big South first teamer Shawn Teufel (9-2, 4.33 ERA, 72 K), but still return several top pitchers including Sr. RHP Mark Swanson (4-0, 2.79 ERA, 35 K), Sr. RHP Carter Browning (2-2, 3.94 ERA, 4 SVs), and Jr. LHP Steven Evans (7-2, 3.96 ERA, 2 CG, 1 SV).

Presbyterian

2009 Season: (13-38, 7-19)

Nickname: Blue Hose

Head Coach: Elton Pollock

Location: Clinton, SC

Vitals: .294 BA, 57 HR, .355 OBP, .965 Fld. %…8.54 ERA, 2 CG, 5 SVs, 263 K, 211 BB, .338 Opp. BA

New Kid on the Block: 2009 was Presbyterian’s first season in the Big South as they continued their transition to Division I.  While only winning 13 games, they did accomplish a couple of feats that will go down in the history books.  The Blue Hose defeated 19th ranked Coastal Carolina on April 25th to record their first ever win over a top-20 ranked team.  They also beat The Citadel for the first time in 81 years.

Holes to Fill: Presbyterian looks to improve in 2010, but will have to do so without it top two hitters from last year in Jared Combs (.332, 16 doubles, 8 HR, 51 RBI) and Cory Lyda (.330, 10 HR, 38 RBI).  Top pitcher Mitchell Odom (5-3, 4.94 ERA, 1 CG) also is gone.

Radford

2009 Season: (26-24, 16-9)

Nickname: Highlanders

Head Coach: Joe Raccuia

Location: Radford, VA

Vitals: .319 BA, 30 HR, .400 OBP, .966 Fld. %…6.24 ERA, 10 SVs, 279 K, 180 BB, .305 Opp. BA

Banner Year: 2009 saw Radford grab their first winning season since 2000, only their fifth in school history, while their 16 conference wins were also the second-most in school history.  Radford also won 10 games away from home, just the sixth time that has ever happened.

Key Players: The Highlanders lose top hitter Alex Gregory (.407, 10 HR, 42 RBI), who became the first Big South Player ever to hit .400 or better for three straight seasons.  Radford does, however, return Big South Freshman of the Year Jeff Kemp (.337, 5 HR, 13 SB) plus pitchers Aerik Taylor (5-4, 4.90 ERA, 41 K) and Jake Quigg (5-1, 4.36 ERA, 19 APP).

UNC Asheville

2009 Season: (9-42, 5-21)

Nickname: Bulldogs

Head Coach: Tom Smith

Location: Asheville, NC

Vitals: .261 BA, 27 HR, .325 OBP, .948 Fld. %…8.27 ERA, 3 CG, 3 SVs, 281 K, 223 BB, .351 Opp. BA

In Good Hands: Head Coach Tom Smith was inducted into the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame earlier this year.  Smith coached for 28 years at T.C. Roberson High School winning three state championships before retiring in 2006.  He joined UNC-Asheville in 2008 as a volunteer assistant, before being named head coach last July.

Need More Offense: First task for Smith is to upgrade their offense.  The Bulldogs hit just .261 as a team and lose top hitter Kevin Weidenbacher (.309, 64 H, 28 R).  They do return the only other player to hit over .300 last season in So. OF Cody Buch (.302, 7 doubles, HR), and their top slugger Jr. INF Mike Vaughn (.237, 7 HR, 28 RBI).

Unfriendly Start: UNC-Asheville may be in the South, but will hit the road for most of the first month.  The Bulldogs only have 2 home games in their first 18 contests.

VMI

2009 Season: (18-35, 10-15)

Nickname: Keydets

Head Coach: Marlin Ikenberry

Location: Lexington, VA

Vitals: .295 BA, 55 HR, .366 OBP, .953 Fld. %…6.48 ERA, 2 CG, 6 SVs, 371 K, 189 BB, .316 Opp. BA

Jordan Ballard

Offense Will Be Key: VMI returns 7 of 9 position starters from last year including leading hitter Sr. 1B Jordan Ballard (.366, 11 HR, 48 RBI), Jr. INF Sam Roberts (.335, 6 HR, 34 RBI), and Sr. 3B Tanner Biagini (.317, 9 HR, 35 RBI).  They will have to step up even further with the loss of 1st team All-Big South performer A.J. Yoder (.349, 13 doubles, 11 SB).  Yoder’s 80 hits set a single-season team record.

Pitching Returns: While VMI their top starter Travis Smink (8-4, 4.33 ERA, 1 CG) and top closer Matt Edwards (3-6, 5.72 ERA, 3 SVs), they welcome back 11 pitchers total including 3 that missed 2009 due to injury in Jr. Chris Duty (5-0, 1.95 ERA, 2 SVs, ‘08), So. Ryan Barefoot (1-1, 4.00 ERA, ’08) and So. Jason Farley (3-2, 2 SVs, ‘08).

Winthrop

2009 Season: (35-25, 18-9)

Nickname: Eagles

Head Coach: Joe Hudak

Location: Rock Hill, SC

Vitals: .323 BA, 55 HR, .394 OBP, .968 Fld. %…5.18 ERA, 1 CG, 14 SVs, 378 K, 197 BB, .291 Opp. BA

Tyler Mizenko

Eagle Soaring: Two Winthrop players have earned preseason honors was the Eagles look to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.  So. RHP Tyler Mizenko (2-4, 3.77 ERA, 14 SVs) is a 2nd team All-American by the NCBWA.  The 14 saves by Mizenko set a school record.  Jr. C Eddie Rohan (.348, 14 HR, 53 RBI) was named a 3rd team preseason All-American by Louisville Slugger.  Rohan was a 1st team All-Big South performer last year as the primary DH.

Strong Arms: Pitching should be the strength of this year’s team as the Eagles bring back all 4 starting pitchers from a year ago.  The staff will be led by Jr. RHP Matteo D’Angelo (8-3, 3.09 ERA, 60 K) and Jr. RHP Wade Newman (7-4, 5.42 ERA, 55 K).

Starting Off Well: Winthrop should have a chance to get off to a good start.  They will play 20 of their first 25 games at home.  The first road trip does feature tough contests against Wake Forest and Texas A&M.

2010 Predictions

2010 Champion: Coastal Carolina

2010 Player of the Year: Rico Noel—Coastal Carolina

2010 Pitcher of the Year: Cody Wheeler—Coastal Carolina

(By Collegebaseball360.com contributor Shawn Lewallen)

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