JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 24, 2014) – The reigning Atlantic Sun Conference Champion ETSU baseball team began preparations for the 2014 season as the Bucs held their first official team practice Friday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Coming off a 36-win campaign and its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament, ETSU took to the field and began gearing up for the season opener, which starts Friday, Feb. 14 at home versus Longwood.
The Bucs return 25 players from last season’s championship squad, including preseason All-America selection Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.). In addition to Freeman, sophomores Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) return for a second season, while Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) is back for his final year in the Blue and Gold. Taylor and Phillips landed A-Sun All-Freshman Team honors in 2013, while Tritsch hit .324 (72-222) with 11 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 21 stolen bases and 37 runs scored in his first season with the Bucs. Meanwhile, Taylor, an A-Sun All-Tournament Team member, posted 12 doubles, 20 stolen bases and 45 runs scored.
Freeman will help bolster a pitching staff which lost A-Sun Pitcher of the Year and First Team Louisville Slugger All-America Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). Doane, who was taken in the 24th round of the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians, went 13-2 with a 2.14 ERA (35 ER/147.0 IP) and tossed four shutouts and 12 complete games. Freeman posted a 7-1 mark with a 3.04 ERA (19 ER/56.1 IP) in 25 appearances (three starts), but was 6-0 with a 0.65 ERA (3 ER/41.1 IP) in 22 appearances out of the bullpen and also converted all eight of his save opportunities. ETSU also returns strong relievers in seniors Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Jared Burton (Knoxville, Tenn.), while Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.), Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.), Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) and Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) provided the Bucs with valuable innings in the starting rotation.
With the Blue and Gold losing five key seniors from their 2013 championship roster in Doane, Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.), Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.), Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) and Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.), head coach Tony Skole and his staff were busy on the recruiting circuit and brought in 10 new players. Green started all 60 games for the Bucs in 2013 and was named second team All A-Sun, while Reynolds and Niesman joined Doane and Taylor on the All-Tournament Team. Hershey started 54 games behind the plate for the Blue and Gold and registered 11 doubles, three home runs and 21 RBI.
The 10 newcomers, which are all freshman, include pitcher/infielder Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.), pitcher/outfielder Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.), catcher/infielder Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.), infielder Zach Mize (Gainesville, Ga.), pitchers Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.), Connor Bartow (Jonesborough, Tenn.), and Austin Hutchison (Jefferson County, Tenn.), outfielders Sam Jokerst (Atlanta), Brandon Moss (Atlanta), and Neil Peterson (Waynesville, N.C.).
The Bucs play 35 of their 56 games at home this season, beginning with the season-opening weekend series against Longwood on Feb. 14-16. To purchase season tickets, call the ETSU ticket office at (423) 439-3878 or visit ETSUBucs.com/tickets.
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