JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 16, 2010) - With the start of the season only a couple of days away the ETSU baseball team is hard at work as the Bucs head to Charleston, S.C. this weekend take on The Citadel in the season opener on Friday.
Below is a look at the 2010 Season Outlook:
For only the second time in school history under the tutelage of head coach Tony Skole the Bucs come into a season with two Pre-Season All-Americans, and the expectations for the 2010 season are very high. ETSU lost a heartbreaker in the Atlantic Sun semifinals a year ago, but the Bucs look to get a second chance at winning the A-Sun Tournament, and hope to be in the hunt for the Atlantic Sun Regular Season championship. This year's team returns 12 players who saw valuable playing time in 2009 including All-Americans Paul Hoilman and Bo Reeder.
Skole has assembled a rigorous non-conference schedule in hopes of getting the Bucs back to the Atlantic Sun Tournament for the second straight season. To do so ETSU will have to improve on the mound after a dismal performance on the mound last season. The Buccaneers have made several key additions on the mound including newcomers Ben Booker, Kerry Doane and Scott McNally. ETSU will also have the services of Josh Means again after coming off of a redshirt year in 2009 to go with the big arms of Chas Byrne, Bo Reeder and Bo Burton.
The Bucs will once again put together another formidable offense as they return seven every day players from last season. ETSU has a couple freshmen who should be able to step into the lineup on opening day and make an impact offensively including Kerry Doane, Andrew Green, Derek Niesman and Michael Gonzalez. This team is loaded with speed on the bases as Chas Byrne, Bo Reeder, Matthew Scruggs, Cory Betterson, Andrew Green, Garrett May and Kerry Doane all run very well.
The 2010 schedule will be a tough one with road trips to Charleston, S.C., Florida Gulf Coast, Kennesaw State, Jacksonville, Oregon and Lipscomb. The Bucs open up on the road on Feb. 19, but then spend 14 of the next 16 games at home before its first road conference series at Lipscomb. ETSU will be tested late in the season as the Bucs close out the year with three consecutive road series against FGCU, Oregon and Kennesaw State.
Junior Derek Trent returns for his second year as the Buc's starting catcher. Trent had a solid offensive season in 2009 as he hit .326 with 36 RBI following a solid freshman campaign which saw him hit 15 homeruns. The junior also threw out ten runners a year ago. "Derek is one of our most improved players. On the defensive side he has made great strides and is getting better and better each day. Offensively, I look for Derek to put it all together this year. He is such a skilled hitter. I think when the dust clears; Derek will be one of the top hitters in our league this season." Sophomore Skyler Barnett will backup Trent, and can add a power bat to the lineup as well as good skills behind the plate.
ETSU will rely on two time All-American and 2010 Louisville Slugger Pre-season All-American Paul Hoilman to anchor the infield at first base. Hoilman is the active home run leader in the A-Sun with 26 career home runs. Last year, Hoilman led the A-Sun in slugging and was in the top ten in average (.380), RBIs (66), on base percentage (.478), home runs (17) total bases (148), doubles (19), and runs scored (55). "Paul had a tremendous season last year. One of the best in ETSU history. The exciting thing about Paul is that he is such a great worker and has returned as a better overall player than the year before. He enters this season as one of the top hitters in the country and we are counting on him to drive in a lot of runs for us this season."
Sophomore Garrett May and freshman Kerry Doane will start up the middle for the Bucs. May had an up and down freshman campaign, but is much improved coming into the season. Doane is a very talented freshman with great defensive skills and an explosive bat as he will look to sure up the right side of the infield. "Both Garrett and Kerry are very dynamic players. There isn't a play on the field that these guys can't make. They are an exciting double play combination. Their ability to make plays defensively will be a key to our success." The Bucs are loaded with depth up the middle as Derek Niesman, Jamie Crawford, and Alex Reynolds can all step in and contribute. If needed, junior Chas Byrne can also step in and provide depth at any infield position.
At third base, ETSU will count on the 2009 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Bo Reeder who tied the ETSU freshmen home run record with 15 last season. Reeder was third on the team hitting .339 as he was named to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen Team. "I am very excited to watch Bo play this spring. Bo is the closest thing we have had to a five-tool player at ETSU in the last ten years. He can beat you in so many ways. Bo had a tremendous freshman campaign, but is a much more complete player than a year ago. Bo is one of the top sophomores in the country." Freshmen Derek Niesman and Alex Reynolds will back up Reeder and provide depth at third base.
The Bucs will again have a very deep squad in the outfield in 2010 as they return starters from last year in Matthew Scruggs, Cory Betterson and Chas Byrne. Andrew Green and Michael Gonzalez will also battle for a starting spot. Sophomores Scruggs and Betterson both saw a lot of time in the outfield a year ago. Scruggs has good speed and can cover a lot of ground, and is also a threat on the base paths, while Betterson has really come into his own since stepping on campus in 2008. Betterson also has tremendous speed, and has come up with some spectacular catches in right field for ETSU. "Our outfield should be one of the best defensive outfields in our conference. Speed is the common ingredient that all of our outfielders possess, and these guys can really go get them. Matthew Scruggs will play a key role for us this season. Matthew played every day last season and has really improved himself physically and mentally over the last 12 months. When he gets it going he can dominate a game. Cory is really starting to come into his own. His athleticism is phenomenal and he can really put pressure on our opponents."
Chas Byrne will also see time in the outfield when he is not pitching. "Chas has really improved offensively and his speed cannot be ignored." Freshmen Andrew Green and Michael Gonzalez will also be counted on to see some time in the outfield for the Bucs. Green is very speedy and has come on this pre-season, while Gonzalez brings another big left-handed bat to the ETSU lineup and is a solid fielder.
The Bucs return starters Chas Byrne and Bo Reeder from 2009, as well as Josh Means who is coming off of a redshirt year after a good freshman campaign in 2008. Also joining the mix for the starting rotation are newcomers Ben Booker and Kerry Doane. Byrne is looking even better than he did in 2009 when he went 6-4 with a complete game win in 14 starts. "Chas has matured so much as a pitcher. He has always had that big arm, but now he really understands what it takes to get guys out on a consistent basis. He is so much more polished than he was at the start of last season. Chas gives us a great option to run out there on Friday night every weekend." Reeder had a good freshman year on the bump as he went 4-4 including wins over Virginia Tech and Tennessee, while Means has looked good in the fall and spring after undergoing surgery a year ago. Booker and Doane have looked impressive since joining the Bucs. Booker, a transfer from Cleveland State Community College, has really good stuff and is a great competitor, while Doane has a live arm with electric stuff and could be one of the best in the staff.
"The guys mentioned above all give us great options in our starting rotation. Every one of them pitches from 88-94 mph and they all throw strikes. What I really like about this group though is that our starting pitchers this year are some of the most competitive individuals on our team. These guys will give us a chance every time out."
ETSU will have one of the best bullpens it has had in a while, as the Bucs will count on one senior, three juniors, one sophomore and five freshmen. Drew Story, Bo Burton, Paul Hoilman and Taylor Gouffon all have experience for the Bucs seeing action in 2009. Burton and Hoilman came on strong for the Bucs at the end of last year throwing some valuable innings for ETSU. Newcomers Scott McNally, Lee Hall, Derek Bushey and Joseph Timp will also be counted on this season. McNally has been dominant in the fall and preseason. "Ultimately the success of our pitching staff is going to determine our success as a ball club. We feel that we are much improved from recent years as we simply have more quality arms on our staff. Our bullpen should be very good as we should be able to create some favorable matchups late games. Bo Burton is going to be the guy we will lean on to finish games. Bo is a great athlete who has the exact makeup you want for your closer."
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