The 2011 North Greenville University Crusader Baseball Team will take the field on February 8th, looking to build on a tremendous 2010 campaign.
The defending NCCAA National Champion Crusaders, fresh off a record setting 46 win season capped by the NCCAA World Series title, are looking to enjoy sustained success. The Crusaders lost only two starters from last season and have added some depth in key spots to help with a goal of returning for another championship run.
Nearly every member of a strong pitching staff returns including the top three starts, Junior Drew Provence, Junior Derek Fulmer, and RS Junior Mike Benjamin. Senior Mark Benjamin also returns in a starting role. Freshmen, Ryan Woodring and Justin Turner, and transfer Sean Willingham will be key additions as new starters in the rotation. The Crusader Pitching Staff also returns key performers in the long relief roles as seniors Matt Benjamin and Daniel Goodnight are joined by sophomores Jeff Wit and Jon Polak, and red shirt freshmen Caleb Phillips.
A big key will be the returning closers, senior Bubba Giles and junior Nate Richards. Sophomore Ben Stechshulte and transfer Andrew Lawrence will be new additions in the short relief role. The Crusaders return 6 of 8 position player starters. On the infield, senior Tyler Callicutt return as first base, and is joined around the diamond by senior second baseman Bubba Giles and junior shortstop David Frazier.
Freshman Taylor Hollifield will step up to fill the void at third base. Hollifield had a solid fall and strong pre-season. Dylan Fulk could also see action at third base as well. Fulk, Sophomore Dalton Knight, Lawrence, and freshmen Trey Walters will provide added depth on the corners of the infield. Knight and Lawrence will also be solid additions in the lineup in the DH spot. Junior Anthony Foulk returns behind the dish.
Foulk will be joined by RS Junior Perry Foster, and RS sophomore Cory Matheson who will both see action in back-up roles at the catching position. The outfield will once again be solid as senior Markus Duckworth and sophomore Adam Taylor return off of tremendous seasons last year. Junior Derek Fulmer will also see more time in the outfield. Red-shirt freshmen, John Reinholz will step up in center field to replace the loss of graduate Rand Stegall. Juniors Daniel York and Jacob Goetze return to add depth in the outfield. Sophomores Will Gladden and Jon Polak along with red-shirt freshmen Jon Terbeek provide more solid outfield depth.
The Crusader offense will return in the same approach that set many offensive school records last season. The goal is to apply pressure with offensive versatility and a selective approach. The Crusaders will be aggressive on the bases and play effective and efficient “small ball. “We must be an outstanding situational hitting team and be very opportunistic – taking advantages of any opponent mistakes”, notes Coach Travis Henson.
The team goals are simple. Improve every day. The Crusaders employ a “next game or next day” philosophy, focusing on finding a way to win the next game. The theme for the season is to SUSTAIN. “It is tough to attain – but its tougher to sustain. Can we experience sustained success over a period of time and not just have a one great season, but build a solid program with a winning tradition?” Coach Henson expects his 2011 team to once again compete and contend at a very high level. The Crusaders have the number 5 on the sleeve of all practice shirts with a goal of playing baseball in the fifth month of the year – May – playoff time for Division II teams. The team adopted the words aggressive and relentless as the two words they want to work to be known for. The Crusader coaching staff will continue to push the team toward realizing and accomplishing the goals and improving each day.
Henson certainly knows the value of such a remarkable staff. “I have a tremendous group of players and a remarkable coaching staff. Coach Reynolds does an outstanding job of individual instruction with our hitting, infield, and base running and Coach Brett Davis, our graduate assistant has been an outstanding addition as our strength and conditioning coach and working with our catchers.” The Crusaders will hit the ground running, as they play 11 games in the first two weeks, including 6 in the opening week. That opening week kicks off Tuesday, February 8th as the Crusaders host Emmanuel in a double header beginning at 1pm and host Mars Hill at 2pm the next day. Come out and support the 2011 Crusader Baseball team as they look to make another championship run!