February 16, 2018123456789RHE
Northern Kentucky000100001251
ETSU20130000X681
PitchingIPHRERBBSO
Win: Micah Kaczor (1-0) 6.0210012
Loss: BEARD (0-1) 4.076633
BattingABRHRBIBBHR
RICHMOND (NKU) 401000
RATTAI (NKU) 411000
HAUETER (NKU) 411101
MERCURIO (NKU) 301000
HEAVILIN (NKU) 301000
Christian Bailey (ETSU) 412200
Caleb Longley (ETSU) 412201
February 18, 20181234567RHE
Northern Kentucky1010000250
ETSU020023X7100
PitchingIPHRERBBSO
Win: Ryan Simpler (1-0) 5.042209
Loss: MENFEE (0-1) 2.032221
BattingABRHRBIBBHR
RICHMOND (NKU) 222111
Aaron Maher (ETSU) 413000
Preview: ETSU Baseball begins new era Friday
Preview: ETSU Baseball begins new era Friday
Thursday, February 15, 2018

Pennucci to head coach first game with new and familiar faces

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 15, 2018) – The 2018 baseball season is upon us, as a new look ETSU baseball squad prepares for its four game series with Northern Kentucky beginning Feb. 16 at 5 p.m.

The four-game slate includes a double-header Saturday, Feb. 17 with scheduled times of 12 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and the series finale Sunday, Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. All times are subject to change due to weather restrictions.

Follow ETSU baseball on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all updates on the series (links on the right side of the page).

A SoCon Digital Network video stream will be available for the opening game, as Mike Gallagher will serve as the play-by-play announcer. Furthermore, all four games will have live stats available. A link to game one is on the right of the page. All other links can be found with its scheduled game here.

 

About the Bucs

For the first time since 2000, ETSU will have a new skipper in its dugout. First year head coach Joe Pennucci will guide the ship in 2018 after spending nearly two decades as an assistant, including 12 seasons as the assistant head coach at Stony Brook where he helped coach the Seawolves to the 2012 College World Series.

The new look ETSU squad will have some familiar faces, as the senior duo of shortstop Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) and right fielder Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.) return for their final seasons. Both were drafted in 2016, but opted to stay with the Blue and Gold.

The Bucs return eight more seniors to this year’s squad, including five who were regulars in last year’s starting lineup and played in at least 53 games last season.

ETSU's pitching staff returns five key arms, including last year’s ace Ryan Simpler (Lewes, Del.). The senior earned second team preseason honors from the SoCon, finishing last year with a 6-4 record and a 3.99 ERA. He also finished with 96 strikeouts, the fourth most in a single season in school history.

ETSU's 2018 roster has 20 lettermen and 12 newcomers. Four pitching transfers and eight underclassmen at various positions headline this season’s incoming class. Many of the newcomers will compete for immediate playing time this season.

 

Scouting Northern Kentucky

Northern Kentucky finished last season with a 25-33 record. The Norse were 17-13 in the Horizon League, finishing third in the regular season, and won their first-ever NCAA Division I postseason game, taking down Milwaukee in the Horizon League Tournament.

NKU is picked fourth in the Horizon League's 2018 pre-season poll, behind Wright State, Illinois-Chicago and Milwaukee.

Todd Asalon is back for his 18th season as NKU's head coach. He has a record of 518-457-1 with the Norse and 662-549-1 in his career, which included six years as head coach at Thomas More College prior to joining NKU in 2000.

The duo of first baseman Chad Roberts and centerfielder Jake Richmond are the centerpieces of the NKU lineup. Both earned 1st Team All-Horizon League honors last season. Roberts batted .259 with 49 hits, 36 RBI, 33 runs, 15 doubles and six home runs, while Richmond turned in a .296 average with 68 hits, 53 runs, 29 RBI, 12 doubles and nine dingers.

 

Below is a breakdown of the Bucs by infield, outfield, catcher and pitcher…

 

Infield

Two former Dobyns-Bennett High School standouts will anchor down full time spots in the infield, as Chris Cook will hold down shortstop for the second straight season. Fellow senior Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tenn.), who started 58 of ETSU’s 59 games last season, will likely start at first base.

Also returning to the ETSU lineup is sophomore Cullen Smith (Lebanon, Tenn.), who started every game at the hot corner his freshman year en route to a SoCon all-freshman team selection last season.

With the graduation of Blake Rowlett, the Bucs have a hole to fill at second base. Last season, Rowlett started all but one game at second, with the other start going to sophomore returnee Cade Gilbert (Ringgold, Ga.).

Along with Gilbert, senior Ethan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) will also compete for a starting role in the middle infield, while freshmen Sean Kearney (Powell, Tenn.) and Brandon Parrott (Seymour, Tenn.) will each look to see time in the corner positions.

 

Outfield

Splitting time between left and center last season, senior Hunter Parker (Chattanooga, Tenn.) returns for his final season. Parker started all 59 games, 37 of which were manning the middle. Parker is the projected starter in center field this season.

Maher started all 59 games in right field last season and is expected to do so again in 2018. Left field is up for grabs, as senior Caleb Longley (Cleveland, Tenn.) and sophomore Sam Stewart (Kingsport, Tenn.) each started at least one game in left last season. Longley started 44 games as the designated hitter and four in left field.

Also competing for playing time in the outfield are two Knoxville natives in freshman David Beam and redshirt sophomore Brock Beeler.

 

Catchers

With the loss of catcher Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.), who was drafted in the 12th round to the Atlanta Braves last season, the Bucs will look to reload behind the dish with a familiar face and a newcomer.

Fellow Knoxville native Jackson Greer hopes to step into the starting role as a sophomore. Greer had eight starts behind the plate and saw action in 16 games last year. Behind Greer is freshman Ben Jackson (Guyton, Ga.), who could possibly split time with Greer this season.

 

Pitchers

The Bucs will have a number of new faces in the starting rotation and the bullpen heading into 2017, as three starting pitchers from last year’s four-man group graduated. Returning from the bunch, as previously mentioned, is senior ace Ryan Simpler.

Simpler’s six wins and 3.99 ERA were the best numbers among starters last season, while his 90.1 innings pitched were second on the team. He also led the team with his 96 punchouts in 2017.

Also returning this season is the senior trio of Russell Koesters (Kingsport, Tenn.), Logan Gentry (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Drew Korzybski (Knoxville, Tenn.). These three combined for 61 appearances, 93.1 innings and eight starts last season.

Korzybski, who hopes to earn a starting role this season, had six of the eight starts, while Koesters and Gentry each had one start with at least 20 appearances out of the pen.

Two junior transfers will also look to provide arms in the starting rotation, as the Floridian duo of Micah Kaczor (Tampa, Fla.) and Dominick Stefanacci (Fort Meyers, Fla.) each come to Johnson City by way of St. Petersburg College. Stefanacci held a 2.99 ERA in 12 starts, while Kaczor threw a 3.06 ERA in 67.2 innings.

While mostly known for their bats, seniors Chris Cook and Aaron Maher could each see time on the mound in relief, when needed. Cook tied for a team-high three saves last season, while Maher kept batters in check with a 1.23 ERA through 7.1 innings.

Junior lefty Corey Bates (Blaine, Tenn.) and junior righty James Giambalvo (Alhambra, Calif.) round out the transfer pitchers. Four underclassmen, Carter Linton (Kingsport, Tenn.), Matt Mercer (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Nate Ruble (Memphis, Tenn.) and Chase Scovill (Jacksonville, Fla.) are also new arms for ETSU.

 

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