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Louisiana-Monroe 2009 Baseball Preview: Pitchers & Catchers

Senior Danial McHenry-Courtesy:

Senior Danial McHenry-Courtesy:


The ULM pitching staff features a little new and a little old for the 2009 season. While the Warhawks return just 47 percent of their wins on the mound from last year, they return the backbone of their bullpen and several pitchers with starting experience.

To go along with eight returning pitchers from last year’s Sun Belt Conference championship team, head coach Jeff Schexnaider added 10 pitchers in the offseason, with eight coming from the junior college ranks.

Closer Derek Ward returns for his senior season after a breakout junior campaign last year. Ward led the Warhawks with a 5-3 record and 3.38 ERA. He finished the season with seven saves and 56 strikeouts in 56 innings of work over 28 appearances.

Returning for a spot in the weekend rotation will be senior southpaw Keith Christensen. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native missed the 2008 season due to shoulder surgery, but was one of the Warhawks top starters in 2007 finishing the year 4-5 with a 4.27 ERA.

North Central Texas College transfer Don Williams has drawn the attention of the coaches during the fall and spring practices and will be in the mix for a weekend starting spot. Williams was a perfect 7-0 last season and had a 2.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Drew Graham and Jordy Poche both return with Sun Belt Conference experience under their belt from last season. Graham notched 13 starts during his first season with the Warhawks and drew the starting role in eight Sun Belt games. Poche started five games on the year and opponents hit a team-low .250 off the right-hander.

Ben Soignier, Devin Pourciau and Scott Stephen all provided the Warhawks with valuable innings out of the bullpen last season and got the nod for four mid-week starts. The trio should once again be solid as late game options out of the bullpen on the weekend and be go-to arms during the week. Danial McHenry, a reliever last year, has possibly worked himself into the starting rotation this season after working on his throwing motion during the offseason.

Josh Gill, Blake Jones, Matt Cawthon, Josh Miller, Corey Brown, Justin Anderson and Josh Turner all transferred to ULM during the offseason and will be relied on heavily during the season. Tony Dischler is the lone freshman in the group and demonstrated his ability by posting a 3.12 ERA with nine strikeouts in 8.2 innings of work during the Fall Blood Series.

Shane Ardoin joined the Warhawks at the beginning of this semester after transferring from LSU. The left-handed pitcher and outfielder will sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules and will be eligible to play for the Warhawks in 2010 as a junior.

The Warhawks return a pair of catchers, including all-Sun Belt selection Ryan McMillan. The senior earned all-conference honors as a utility player as he split time between third base and behind the plate. McMillan hit .298 on the season with 16 doubles and seven home runs.

Junior Casey Auttonberry also returns and will serve as the Warhawks number two option behind the plate. The local product hit .462 with a pair of doubles and a home run in eight games last season.

Joining McMillan and Auttonberry is freshman Chris Sinclair from West Monroe, La., where he was a two-time all-state selection.

Season tickets are still available and can be purchased by clicking here, by visiting the ULM ticket office in Malone Stadium or by calling 318-342-3ULM.

The Warhawks open play on Friday night at 6 p.m. when they host Northwestern State in the opening game of the ULM Warhawk Classic at Warhawk Field. ULM plays Stephen F. Austin on Saturday night at 7 p.m. and wraps up the weekend on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. against Mississippi Valley State.

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