Crusader Baseball Ranks 7th In PreSeason Poll
Tigerville, SC - Just one season removed from an appearance in the Conference Carolinas Tournament, the North Greenville University baseball team will be looking to fill key holes in their lineup and pitching staff for the 2014 season.
The Crusaders return 13 players who recording playing time last season, including five starters in the field, from a team that was 17-29 overall and 8-15 in conference play in 2013.
Among the starters returning for head coach Reggie Reynolds will be junior Allen Staton, a 2013 All-American and First Team All-Conference selection.
The Laurens, SC native will be switching from the infield to a spot in left field while also remaining as a key piece of the pitching staff. In 2013, Staton recorded a .387 batting average with a team-high 72 hits, including 19 doubles and 11 home runs as well as 54 RBI and a .677 slugging percentage. On the mound, the junior recorded three wins and five saves with 25 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched.
Sophomore catcher Wheeler Smith also returns looking to build upon a strong freshman season which saw him record a .275 batting average, including four doubles and nine RBI in 28 games played. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Mitchell is expected to add power to the middle of the Crusader lineup after posting 44 hits in 2013, including eight doubles and 11 home runs with 36 RBI, while senior Taylor Hollifield provides experience and leadership having played in 151 career games, including 43 games played as a junior.
Sophomore third basemen Foley George (17 games in 2013) and Cuyler McAuliffe (32 games, 21 hits, 10 RBI, 10 runs scored) are expected to battle for time at the hot corner, while fellow sophomore Drew Lipscomb makes a move to centerfield after seeing action in 26 games last season.
Another position battle will take place at the first base position as redshirt junior Josh Sealey (22 games, .271 average, 16 hits) and utility player Jessep Polk (25 games, .269 average, seven RBI) will see time on the corner. Redshirt junior Stephen Cantrell, a transfer from nearby Wofford College, slides in to the starting spot at shortstop for the Crusaders. During his tenure as a Terrier, Cantrell recorded 41 hits 80 career games in the middle of the infield.
The Crusader pitching staff is somewhat of a question heading into the 2014 season as just six of the 16 pitchers on staff have seen action in a collegiate game.
Senior Ryan Woodring returns for his final season as the ace of the staff after totaling three wins in 11 starts last season, pitching a team-high 68 2/3 innings with 43 strikeouts. Redshirt junior Kelvin Minnig comes to North Greenville from USC Salkehatchie where he totaled 18 strikeouts over 24 1/3 innings in eight appearances, while redshirt sophomore Matt Laurens is expected to round out the weekend starters after spending two seasons at Catawba College.
Senior Sean Willingham (11 career appearances, 38 1/3 innings) and junior Stewart Hunt (five appearances, one win, six innings in 2013) will provide experience and relief in the middle innings, while freshmen Shane Bishop and Eric Hertel will also see time on the mound among others.
The Crusaders are ranked 7th overall in the Conference Carolinas Baseball Pre-Season Coaches Poll and understand that in order to make it back to the postseason all of the pieces must come together and compete as one unit.