JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 9, 2017) – Between D1Baseball.com and the Southern Conference, the ETSU baseball team totaled two Player of the Year awards, four top prospects and two All-Conference honors.
Headlining the awards were Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Cullen Smith (Lebanon, Tenn.). Owenby was tabbed the Preseason Player of the Year per the Southern Conference, and Smith was named Preseason Freshman of the Year by D1Baseball.com. Owenby enters his junior year for the Bucs and looks to build upon an already impressive resume, which includes being drafted in the 14th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning the 2016 TD AmeriTrade Home Run Derby and back-to-back seasons with All-American status. Smith joins ETSU as a rookie from Lebanon, Tenn., and he looks to earn a starting position at third base for the Blue and Gold while adding depth in a power-driven lineup. Smith was named to the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association All-Star team in 2015.
ETSU claimed four top prospects in the Southern Conference, per D1Baseball.com: Owenby, Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.), Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.), and Blake Smith (Ninety Six, S.C.). Cook is coming off a 2016 season that was shortened due to injury, but that didn’t stop him from being drafted in the 30th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Maher also heard his name called in the draft last season as the Pirates nabbed him in the 38th round. The Brentwood, Tenn. native had a great 2016 season where he toted a .315 batting average including nine homers, 26 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases. Blake Smith joined the Bucs last year after transferring from Spartanburg Methodist Junior College, and he played a pivotal role as a starter and reliever. At the end of the season, he went 4-4 in 19 appearances (nine starts), and he also struck 52 batters in 61.1 innings.
To add to the accolades, the SoCon named Owenby first team All-SoCon catcher, and Cook earned second team honors at the shortstop position.
After finishing its 2016 season 27-30 overall and 13-11 in the SoCon, D1Baseball placed ETSU fourth in the projected standings. In the Preseason SoCon Coaches and Media Polls, the Bucs were projected to finish sixth in a tight points race in both polls. UNCG was given the slight edge in the coaches poll as the Spartans received five first place votes, but Mercer earned eight first place votes in the media poll to take the top spot.
The Bucs will begin their season on Friday, Feb. 17 with a home series against Central Michigan. First pitch for the home and season opener is slated for 3 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.
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