ANDERSON, S.C. – With the 2014 baseball season quickly approaching, Anderson University baseball looks to bounce back after a disappointing 2013 campaign, as the Trojans begin their slate with their home opener against UNC Pembroke on Feb. 1.
Anderson began the 2013 season with a slow start and was unable to recover, closing the year with a 17-33 overall record and tying for eighth place in the South Atlantic Conference standings, failing to advance to the six-team conference tournament. Head Coach Joe Miller seeks to put last season behind them and move toward the bright future.
“When this time of the year comes around, we start counting down the days until opening day,” Miller said. “We’re getting a lot of guys back from injury and with the addition of our new players makes everybody ready to go.”
Eight seniors headline a roster that holds a wealth of experience and a handful of newcomers who will be asked to play right away. Senior Thomas Goodman, who saw action on the mound and at the plate a season ago, will be slotted into the weekend rotation and could compete to be a Friday starter. Goodman closed the 2013 season with a 4-4 record in 49.1 innings, carrying a 4.93 ERA.
Goodman will join juniors Spencer Earle and JT Trujillo and sophomore David Thompson to round out the weekend rotation. Following last season, Earle was a member of the Berkeley Lake Tides where he went 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in seven starts on the hill. For his efforts, Earle was named the league’s Player of the Week once. Trujillo made 10 starts for AU a season ago and earned two victories.
Out of the bullpen, the Trojans bring back sophomore Landon Beck after earning second team All-SAC honors a season ago. Beck finished last season with eight saves, tying for the second-most in the conference, while holding a 3.09 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 32 innings.
Joining Beck in relief will be a heavy load of right-handers including returnee Evan Jordan. Jordan, who saw action in 13 games, recorded a 4.19 ERA in 19.1 innings with 19 strikeouts. Senior Will Walls will also see time out of the bullpen as the lone senior relief pitcher.
“We have experience with our starters and in the backend of the bullpen, the question mark will be in middle relief,” Miller said. “We don’t have a lot of experience with the guys that will throw in the sixth, seventh or eighth innings. There are plenty of arms out there and there will plenty of opportunities for guys to step in and win a role in middle relief.”
In the lineup, the Trojans return four of their everyday starters from a year ago, including sophomore Steven Cooper who led AU in batting average (.309), triples (3) and ranked in the top five in all offensive categories. Cooper will be joined in the lineup by a trio of seniors in the outfield with Paul Como, Josh Hickman and Nathan Galliford. Hickman and Como both hit over .300 last season, as the tandem combined for 103 hits, 23 doubles and five home runs. Galliford, who started 42 games in 2013, hit .257 with a .449 slugging percentage and tied for the team-lead in home runs with five. Junior Ryan Mills will also see some time in the outfield hitting .293 a season ago.
Two key additions to the lineup are Division I transfers Garrett Bernardo and LJ Newman. Bernardo spent the 2013 season with Maine where he was part of a 37-22 team that advanced to the America East Conference title game. Newman comes to Anderson after spending two seasons with USC Upstate where he was a two-way player and was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Academic Team. Newman could share time behind the plate at catcher along with seniors Ben Pendleton and Jonathan Zalud.
“We brought in four transfers for this season, which is typically a high number for us,” Miller said. “We like bringing in those guys with experience and they’ll add depth to our roster and they’ll hopefully make a difference on the field.”
Also returning to the Trojan lineup are senior Shawn Delmontagne and junior Brett Cash who combined for 49 starts a season ago with Delmontagne closing the year with a .286 batting average and a .490 slugging percentage as he battled injuries throughout the year. Cash, who has started 80 games mostly at shortstop through two seasons with AU, ranked fifth on the team in hits with 36 and carried an average of .242. Cash’s highlight of the 2013 season came against Carson-Newman on April 13 when he bashed two home runs with four RBI and three runs scored leading the Trojans to an 8-6 win and eventual series win.
“If we can stay healthy, I look at one of two guys that were hitting third or fourth for us last season with our injuries could be hitting seventh or eighth this season,” Miller said. “We’re going to have some depth in our lineup this year with guys that are able to swing it one through nine. Offensively, we have the potential to be one of the strongest ball clubs that I’ve had here at Anderson, we just have to perform.”
Anderson’s coaching staff is excited about its newcomers to the roster as 11 freshmen begin their collegiate careers in 2014. Five new right-handers will be joining the bullpen as Austin Cashwell (Greer, S.C. / Brunswick CC), Hunter Crompton (Easley, S.C. / Wren), Nicholas Reyer (Silver Springs, Md. / Washington Christian Academy), Austin Smith (Westminster, S.C. / West Oak) and Daulten Stewart (Pickens, S.C. / Pickens) look to provide depth in relief. Three infielders and outfielders join the roster as Justin Kenley (Indian Trail, N.C. / Metrolina Christian Academy), Darion Restrepo (Miami, Fla. / Miami Springs) and Xavier Peralta (Aiken, S.C. / South Aiken) could see time in the lineup immediately.
In the outfield, three players who played their high school careers in South Carolina as Storm Grisham (Hilton Head Island, S.C. / Hilton Head), Matthew Powell (Belton, S.C. / Belton-Honea Path) and William Thomas (Dublin, Ohio / Dutch Fork (S.C.)) look to provide depth to an experienced outfield.
Coker, which advanced to the NCAA Division II World Series last season, enters the SAC after moving into the league from Conference Carolinas. With the addition, the SAC will look to earn multiple positions in the NCAA Regionals. Coker joins favorites Tusculum, Wingate and Catawba to headline the conference. Lincoln Memorial, which claimed the conference tournament title a season ago also looks to continue its recent success. The Trojans look to be in the tournament discussion in April.
“We want to try and erase the memories we had from the 2013 season,” Miller said. “With 11 teams in the conference, every weekend it doesn’t matter who is playing who and I think it’s going to a matter of who stays healthy. Every weekend it will be a dog fight to make it into the top six in the conference to advance to the conference tournament.”
Anderson opens its season on Saturday, Feb. 1 when it welcomes UNC Pembroke to Anderson Memorial Stadium. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for 1 p.m.