Bucs Looking for Big Things in 2011February 3, 2011
The time is now for the 2011 CSU baseball team, who will look to send off the team’s 11 seniors with a successful campaign. The motto of “accountable urgency” fueled the team throughout the offseason and preseason, spurring hard work both on the field and in the classroom. Head Coach Stuart Lake enters his third season at the helm of the Bucs, and has guided the team to improvements in numerous areas in both of his previous seasons. He is joined by Charles Assey (third season), Sid Fallaw (second season) and Jamie Rabon (first season).
A slew of experienced veterans, combined with a crop of talented newcomers, will no doubt help the Buccaneers exceed expectations and finish ahead of their preseason eighth place Big South ranking in the 2011 season. Led by captains Tom Burkett and All-Conference Second Team member Nick Chinners, the Buccaneers, boast the most depth and competition the team has seen in three seasons at many key positions.
The loss of Tyler Thornburg to the professional ranks may be viewed as a hole in the line up to some, but Coach Lake has many different ways to fill the void. A wealth of talent and experience on the mound will more than make up for the void left by Thornburg, who was drafted in the third round by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2010 MLB draft.
“I am very excited about this year’s pitching staff,” says pitching coach Charles Assey. “I strongly believe that with the maturity and experience of returning pitchers, combined with a few new additions, our pitching staff has a good chance of pushing our program into the top of the Big South. I preach to our staff to be both mentally and physically tough to endure a long, vigorous season
Senior Jesse Cadenhead returns after a strong junior campaign and is expected to anchor the Bucs' pitching staff. He will be joined by fellow senior Stew Brase, whose 21 appearances last season were second only to Thornburg. Cadenhead made 18 appearances with seven starts and struck out 55 batters while earning an ERA of 7.28. Brase had three saves and two wins for the Bucs as a junior, finishing with an ERA of 6.75.
Anthony Markham also enters his final season of eligibility for the Bucs, and should see plenty of time on the mound in 2011. His 11 starts were second only to Thornburg in 2010, and he finished third on the team in innings pitched with 63.2. Markham gave up 54 runs off of 92 hits for an ERA of 6.08.
Juniors Patrick Dolan and Charlie McCready are both expected to see significant time on the mound after successful sophomore seasons. Dolan spent 2010 as a jack-of-all-trades for the Bucs and saw time at first base, outfield, designated hitter and pitcher. On the mound, he finished the year with an ERA of 9.85 over 28.1 innings. McCready had eight starts in 2010 and emerged from his sophomore season with an ERA of 8.38 over the course of 48.1 innings.
Tyler Vick is expected to lead both the long relief and set up pitchers after pitching 37 innings in 21 games as a junior in 2010. Vick finished the season with an ERA of 5.46 after giving up 23 runs off of 37 hits and striking out 21 batters.
A quartet of newcomers is behind Vick at the relief spot, but they are sure to bring talent beyond their years to the mound. Redshirt junior Ali Williams is the lone member of the quad with collegiate experience but will see his first action in a Buccaneers uniform in 2011 after transferring from USC Salkehatchie. Freshmen Levi Mauldin, Zach Hagaman and Matt Witt are all expected to see a significant number of appearances this season. McCready could also see time as a long reliever.
Behind Vick at set up is Kyle Ward, who enters his sophomore season with the Bucs. Ward was strong in the limited innings he pitched in 2010, ending the season with an ERA of 3.60 and giving up three runs off of seven hits. Witt and Hagaman, as well as redshirt junior George Shaefer, are also expected to be used as setup type pitchers.
Williams and junior Corey Deighan will handle the closer responsibilities. Williams sat out last season after transferring from USC Salkehatchie but is expected to be strong for the Bucs this season. Williams finished with an ERA of 3.72 and struck out 71 batters for the Indians in 2009. Deighan had 26 appearances for the Bucs as a sophomore, giving up 45 hits and 36 runs for an ERA of 7.16.
“Pitching will be very strong for us,” says Coach Lake. “We have a lot of veterans who have really worked hard.”
The Buccaneers have worked hard to improve at catcher and expect to reap the benefits of their hard work this season. Assistant Coach Sid Fallaw has strong options at the position this season, including redshirt junior Blake Hunt who returns to action this season after suffering an injury in 2010.
“This year’s catching staff looks to be very promising,” says Coach Fallaw. “We have worked very hard over the course of the year to improve as a staff behind the plate and look forward to handling a talented pitching staff. This year we boast both youth and experience behind the plate, so I am very excited to watch these guys in action. If hard word breeds results, it should be a very exciting year behind the plate for our team.”
Drew Woodall enters the season with a year of experience under his belt. Woodall started 21 games at catcher as a freshman, and saw action in 33 games overall. He had 15 hits with eight runs and 12 RBI in 2010 and his 148 putouts ranked second on the team. Woodall and Hunt will be joined by freshman Denis Buckley behind the plate.
In December of 2010 CSU suffered their most devastating loss when redshirt freshman Will Bedenbaugh was killed in a car accident. This closely-knit unit will no doubt miss their comrade, but will use their play to honor him in 2011.
“I would be remiss not to mention our most painful loss, and that was of Will,” says Coach Lake. “Will died over the Christmas holiday in car accident and would have been in position to see time this spring behind the plate. Our catchers know we use more than one and are a very close group. Will serves as the motivating force to our team, especially our catchers, every day.”
The infield is just one more place where the Bucs boast a veteran presence, with upperclassmen returning to reclaim their spots at every position.
“Our infielders are working hard every day to improve on fundamentals,” says assistant coach Jamie Rabon, who enters his first season with the team. “Every infielder has bought into our system and continues to see improvement at every practice. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season.”
Named last season to the Big South’s All-Conference Second Team, co-captain Nick Chinners will return at first base for his final season with the Buccaneers in 2011. Chinners led the team and finished second in BSC with a .385 batting average and ended the season with 79 hits, 26 runs and 43 RBI. Chinners started 35 games at first in 2010 and appeared in 52 games overall, recording a team-leading 407 putouts. Walt Quattlebaum is also expected to see some time at first base.
Senior Bentley Christmas is expected to get the bulk of playing time at second base, but newcomer Cody Austin will be close behind and could also see significant time. Christmas started 36 games for the Bucs in 2010 and finished the season with 22 runs and 10 RBI, as well as 76 putouts.
Quattlebaum and senior Brandon McKinney will battle for the starting spot at shortstop, as both a veterans that bring great experience to the table. Quattlebaum started 41 games last season, with most of his starts coming at shortstop. As a sophomore he hit .294 with 24 runs, 26 RBI and 6 home runs. McKinney also saw significant time in 2010, starting 24 games as a junior. He finished the season hitting .218 and had 46 putouts. Freshman Alex Tomasovich will compete with both for playing time as well.
Third base will be another tough battle that continues over from last season between sophomores Jaren Sustar and redshirt senior Matt Still. The two split time at the position last season, and both are solid third basemen who bring power to the plate.
Sustar appeared in 24 games with 14 starts as a freshman and hit .221 with 12 runs. Still saw little more action, with 44 starts and had one of the team’s best slugging percentages at .454. He was also third on the team in runs scored with 17 – seven of which were home runs. He finished the season with 51 hits and 28 runs in 185 at bats for a batting average of .276.
“In the outfield, we return to every day starters in Burkett and Meier,” says Coach Lake. “They will both see time in center and corners but bring a wealth of talent and experience to us. We also have some interesting newcomers that I feel will make an immediate impact in our outfield.”
Co-captain Tom Burkett and Brantley Meier, who was elected by teammates to wear the commemorative #23 jersey, are expected to anchor the outfield both in the field and at the plate, as both are at the top of the order.
In the outfield will be Burkett, who started 46 games in 2010, led the team in home runs with 24 and was fourth with 97 put outs. He was also second in stolen bases with 15. Freshman Brian Welch is also expected to make some appearances at left field.
Meier will see time in center field, but like Burkett, could see time at both left and right as well. Meier was one of the Bucs strongest hitters in 2010, leading the team in runs scored (41), on base percentage (.455), hits (84) and stolen bases (25), among others. His leadership and dedication both on and off the field led to his teammates awarding him the #23 jersey, which is worn by the senior who best represents the program and CSU values.
Junior Brennan Dorsett will compete for the spot in the outfield after transferring from Louisburg Junior College in 2010. Burkett will be able to add experience to this position after seeing time in right field as a junior. After playing in just 14 games due to injury as a freshman, Shane Miles will also fight for time in the outfield. Interestingly enough, CSU’s outfield lineup will be based upon the pitching staff, as Dorsett and Hagaman will split time in the field and on the mound.
The Buccaneers return two of the Big South’s strongest hitters in Chinners and Meiers, who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the conference in batting average. Chinners hit .385 to lead the team, and Meier was close behind at .378.
Coach Lake feels the Bucs will find strength in the designated hitter spot with senior Derek Smith. Smith hit .324 with 19 runs and eight homers in 102 at bats in 2010. He boasted the team’s best slugging percentage at .588 and an on base percentage of .407.
“We have a very solid offensive team returning and some exciting newcomers who give us added options and depth,” says Coach Lake. “As a coach, when you have depth then you have the ability to pinch hit and pinch run. Now that BBCOR bats are standard in the NCAA, I feel this depth with be vital to our offensive success.