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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 2, 2011) -The ETSU baseball team begins the 2011 season Friday, Feb. 18 as the Marist Red Foxes come to town. Every day, leading up to the first pitch, different members of the 2011 squad will check in with Buccaneer fans. Today fans can catch up on senior Paul Hoilman who was featured on CollegeBaseballInsider.com today.
ETSU dreaming big with Hoilman's return
By Allen Kha
Professional scouts graced plenty of Atlantic Sun conference games last season, enough for then-junior first baseman Paul Hoilman's talent and stat line - a .425/.526/.860 triple slash with 25 home runs and 84 RBI - to shine.
However, Hoilman's star didn't shine bright enough.
Scouts suggested Hoilman's numbers were inflated due to the conference he plays in, and that he wouldn't fare as well against stiffer pitching. Hoilman, a consummate student-athlete majoring in mathematics with a GPA above 3.9 and high MCAT scores, lasted until the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him in the 49th round. He decided to return to school for his senior season ready to finish his degree and prove scouts wrong.
"I just want to keep improving," Hoilman said. "School's school, and it's not hard. I take care of business as a student-athlete, and I still aspire to be a professional baseball player. It's every player's dream.
"I took the MCAT and… who knows… maybe that scared off a few scouts with the ‘signability' factor. But ultimately everything came together for me to come back to school and play out my senior season. It's going to be a good season for us, and I'm focused on helping this really good team get where we want to be."
East Tennessee State coach Tony Skole was surprised that his star player's draft stock fell, considering Skole projected Hoilman to be drafted in the first 15 rounds.
"It's a tremendous blessing to be able to welcome Paul back," said Skole, whose Bucs lost to Mercer in the A-Sun final in 2010. "Paul's a model student-athlete and has a tremendous work ethic. He's willing to listen and soak things up like a sponge, both on the field and in the classroom, and that's what makes him special. Having him back in the middle of our lineup gives us a chance to be very special offensively."
Stetson coach Pete Dunn also sung Hoilman's praises, noting that he was envious of Skole drawing the right cards and having Hoilman opt to stay in school.
"Paul's an amazing player," Dunn said. "You look at our conference and we are a good conference, with Hoilman headlining their team this year. Players like [Florida Gulf Coast's Chris] Sale and Hoilman are the types of players who slip through the cracks of the big programs, but develop into something special.
"Our staff knew about Sale, but we actually didn't follow Hoilman much. But you've seen what he has done for their team and their program, and he's capable of a lot more. I was definitely surprised to see him slip so far in the draft. Our conference has produced some great players and he is part of that group. He'll play it out this season and do a great job, as I hope our team, which is shaping up well, will, too."
The Buccaneers (15-12 A-Sun, 32-28, but only 8-17 away from home) hope their improved pitching and Hoilman's return will keep them at the forefront of the Atlantic Sun with the likes of Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast. ETSU's pitching staff struggled last season, conceding a 6.60 ERA and allowing batters to hit .329. Skole believes his team's reinforcements on the mound will complement a powerful offense that also features Bo Reeder (.356/20/61), Derek Trent (.348/13/66) and Matthew Scruggs (.344/13/61).
"We feel like John Long, a JUCO transfer, gives us a dominant Friday starter, and senior Bo Burton will give us wins on the weekend," Skole said. "Most importantly though, it allows us to move [junior infielder/pitcher] Bo Reeder to the closer role, which will help his stamina and allow him to contribute offensively up to his potential."
Hoilman added: "It's about what we can do as a team this season, and hopefully it's getting to a new level of excellence as a program."
For more information on Buccaneer baseball or any other athletic news, please visit www.ETSUBucs.com.