Baseball opens new era on Friday at Florida StateJanuary 25, 2005
By CSU Sports Information
|CSu's career homerun leader Jordan Haar|
CHARLESTON, S.C. - A new era in Charleston Southern baseball begins on Friday as the 2005 Buccaneers open the season with a three-game series at Florida State.
First-year head coach Jason Murray leads a veteran squad into Tallahassee with senior left-hander Brad Bissell expected to be the game one starter. The game can be heard live via webcast beginning at 3:20 on csusports.com. Saturday's game will also be webcast with Sports Information Director David Shelton handling play-by-play duties.
Murray, who was hired in August after two years as an assistant at Michigan, inherits 13 seniors from a squad that posted a 24-34 record in 2004. While experience is important in the demanding world of college baseball, attitude and discipline are the keys to winning.
Murray’s hope for 2005 is that a new way of doing things and a new attitude will blend well with the veteran leadership that returns to the club. Together, the coach says, success can be achieved and championships can be won.
"We have some veteran players who have been through the Big South wars and have played against some of the top competition in the country. Now is their time to take the next step and to hopefully end their collegiate careers as winners," said Murray. "Offensively we have some players with interesting numbers and we have the potential to score some runs. We have to cut down on strikeouts (school record 441 last year) and understand that getting on base is the key."
CSU’s pitching staff is potentially the strength of this year’s team. Potential in that the Buccaneers have plenty of quality arms with quality innings under their belts, however, improvement must be made. The Bucs posted a team earned run average of 5.79 last season with only one pitcher having an ERA under four. That pitcher, three-time Big South All-Conference selection R.J. Swindle, is now pitching in the Boston Red Sox organization after setting school career records for wins, innings, starts, and strikeouts.
"Swindle carried the staff for three years and many of the pitchers we have this year were right there with him," said Murray. "This is their time to step up and take control of the mound for us. The experience has to translate into wins on the field. We have some quality arms and if they can improve on what they did a year ago, we will have a solid pitching staff."
Senior lefty Brad Bissell returns the best ERA (4.76) on the staff. Bissell logged more than 100 innings on the mound last season, posting a 4-10 record. He enters the season third on the school’s all-time innings pitched list with 275.
Senior right-hander Ian Holmen was 4-5 with a 7.80 earned run average last season but has quality stuff and a live arm. Senior Nino Fasulo posted a 5-3 record with a respectable 5.32 ERA and could be a force out of the pen, as well as a mid-week starter.
Perhaps the best pro prospect on the staff is junior right-hander Bobby Parnell. Though his 1-6 record and 6.82 earned run average is hardly noteworthy, the hard-throwing Parnell made tremendous improvements during the off-season and may be realizing his true potential. He showed his potential last year by allowing only two earned runs over eight innings against fifth-ranked East Carolina.
Senior reliever Jimmy Trenor will be counted on for innings if healthy, along with transfers Ryan Sowers and Josh Evans. Sowers, via the junior college route, brings an outstanding arm to CSU with potential to be a weekend starter. Evans, a transfer from Elon, is coming off surgery but has been impressive in early season workouts with his warrior-like attitude.
Freshmen Payton Tweddale, Brian Bridges, Brandon Marshall and Brad Sturm will pitch mainly out of the bullpen this season and Murray expects all four to see time on the hill.
Murray says competition behind the dish is making all of the candidates better and sees a potential weakness as a possible strength as time goes on.
One of the team’s more versatile players is senior Brad Woods. Woods led the Bucs in hitting with a .336 average last season, adding 10 homeruns and 36 RBI while sharing time at second and third base. Woods is a candidate behind the plate this season but Murray is hopeful that others will step up and allow Woods to play at third again this spring.
Senior Michael Blankenship (.231, 2 HR, 15 RBI) is locked in a competitive battle with sophomore David Perkins (.222, 2 HR, 5 RBI) and freshman Keith Stewart. Entering the season, Blankenship appears to have a slight edge but Murray expects all three players to see action until some takes control.
"We have worked extremely hard in the fall and preseason at learning the importance of maknig the routine plays defensively," said Murray. "We clearly have the potential defensively to be very sound if we can avoid the errors on plays that are routine."
Senior shortstop Billy Dalton is the anchor defensively, coming off his best season as a collegian. Dalton, a passionate player and team leader, hit a career-high .304 last season, swiping 14 bases. Though his 15 errors led the team, many of those miscues came early in the season. Sophomore Adam Brown, who started 32 games at either short or second last season, is another sure-handed defensive player with the ability to play either spot in the middle.
Seniors Andrew Grosse and Jay Reynolds will battle for the nod at second base, with Brown expected to compete as well. Grosse has battled injuries throughout his career while Reynolds is moving from the outfield, where he started 42 games, batted .275 and was 24-of-27 in stolen bases last season. True freshman Adam Young provides depth this season.
If Woods does not catch, he will be the starter at third base. Sophomore Lionel Greene earned 28 starts last season and has shown a tremendous arm and solid glove. Greene, however, batted under .200 last season and is learning to change his hitting style.
Graham Maiden headlines several potential candidates at first base. Maiden started 31 games last season, hitting .275 with 21 RBI before injuring his hand. Senior Jeff Kolhagen (.247, 4 HR, 17 RBI) could see time as well, along with senior Alan Bontya and newcomers Blake Freeman and Neil Krock. All of these players will also compete for time as the designated hitter.
The Buccaneer outfield is potentially the best it has been in recent years with the return of seniors Jordan Haar and Brian Sole. Haar enters the 2005 campaign as the school’s career leader in homeruns and set the single-season record last season with 15 dingers. He is closing in on the all-time record for hits and should break the record sometime during the season. Haar also brings speed to his game, swiping 24 bases in 25 attempts last season while earning Big South all-conference honors.
Sole is coming off his best season as a collegian, a season in which he batted .308 with 12 homeruns and 45 RBI, stealing 14 bases. Sole is expected to start in left for the third consecutive season while Haar will play center. Haar could be in right if Reynolds ends up back in the outfield at center.
Sophomore Jason Rose is competing for the nod in right after a solid freshman campaign. Rose batted .265 with two homers and 12 RBI in 37 games. Sophomore Justin Fyle has potential in right as a left-handed hitter, along with freshmen Michael Obuchowski and Hunter Ruoss.
It should come as no surprise that CSU’s schedule is again very competitive. The 2004 schedule saw the Buccaneers play six games against top 10 teams and 12 games overall against teams ranked in the top 30 at one time or another.
In 2005, the Bucs have 13 games against teams that begin the season ranked among the nation’s top 30 by Baseball America. The schedule includes three-game series at Florida State and Florida, as well as the annual meeting with the University of South Carolina. The Bucs also play cross-town rivals from College of Charleston and The Citadel, two of the favorites to win the Southern Conference.
And, as always, the Big South Conference promises to be as competitive as any league in the country. Favorites Winthrop and Coastal Carolina have received national preseason recognition, with Birmingham Southern making a huge statement last season.
CSU will play 24 games at Buccaneer Field but close the regular season with 14 of their last 15 games on the road.