This should be a fun year in the Big South with several teams that should be very good this year. I could see a number of different teams winning this conference in 2018.
Campbell (2017 Record: 25-32, 10-14)
Campbell had three wins over ACC teams in 2017, but there wasn’t much else to get excited about. They went two-and-out in the Big South Baseball Tournament.
Matt Barefoot returns to the Campbell outfield after leading the team with a .335 average in 2017 with 42 runs scored, 8 home runs, 49 RBI and 7 stolen bases. Another outfielder, Jeff Hahs, hit .313 last year with 45 runs scored, 10 home runs, 44 RBI and 10 stolen bases. Zach Minnick should be back behind the plate after hitting .294 with 27 runs scored, 5 home runs and 25 RBI. Assistant Coach Chris Marx mentioned several players who could have a key role in the lineup this season. That list includes: FR- Garrett Boldt-OF, Transfer – Joe Zirolli-OF, Transfer – Tyler Anshaw-3B, Transfer-Luis Gimenez-SS.
Alex Yarem led the team in innings pitched with 65.1 to go along with a 4.13 ERA and 39 strikeouts. Ryan Kirk and Allan Winans both started 12 games last year and will be back. Harry Thomas had a 3.93 ERA in 55 innings – mostly out of the bullpen – with 44 strikeouts. Wes Noble was probably their best pitcher in 2017 with a 3.52 ERA in 61.1 innings pitched with a team-high 61 strikeouts. Freshman Brandon Jenkins could have an impact on the pitching staff in 2018.
Coach Marx said the key for improvement in 2018 will be pitching better. That certainly seems to be the case as there is a lot of production coming back in the lineup. With almost every pitcher coming back, if they can take a step forward in 2018 this could be a dangerous team in the Big South.
Charleston Southern (2017 Record: 22-29, 9-15)
Charleston Southern was 21-20 after the month of April, but lost their next nine games before finishing the season with a win over Air Force.
Jason Miller returns to the infield and will hit in the middle of this lineup after batting .340 last year with 28 runs scored, 10 doubles, 2 home runs, 30 RBI and 12 stolen bases. Aaron Miller should be back at first base after leading the team in home runs last year with eight. Kyle Vesnesky will have a chance to start on the infield, and Mike Sconzo should return behind the dish.
“Freshmen infielders Ryan Rizk and Josh Asbill, along with junior college outfielder Josh Litchfield, had really good fall seasons,” said Head Coach Adam Ward. “Coming in, they were expected to be solid defenders, but they performed well offensively also.”
“We are excited about an experienced pitching staff returning in 2018,” Ward added. “Returners include our closer Cody Smith, senior relievers Daniel Johnson and Wil Hartsell, and starting pitchers Nik Constantakos, Tyler Weekley, and Cody Maw.”
Constantakos led the team in innings pitched (64) and strikeouts (75) as a freshman last year. Maw had a 4.58 ERA in 53 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts. Cody Smith had a 1.61 ERA in 28 innings with 43 strikeouts. Johnson had a 2.85 ERA in 41 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts.
“We are hopeful that this 2018 team will be improved on defense. The 2017 team got off to a really good start but didn’t fare as well as we would have liked down the stretch. A goal this year is to peak at the right time and play our best baseball at the end of the year.” – Head Coach Adam Ward
Gardner-Webb (2017 Record: 25-30, 11-13)
It was a so-so year for Gardner-Webb as they went 11-13 in conference play and then went 1-2 in the Big South Tournament to end their season.
They lose their top two hitters from last year, so outfielder Chandler Redmond is the top returning hitter after batting .275 a year ago with 37 runs scored, 10 doubles, 16 home runs and 34 RBI. Second baseman Mickey Dugan hit .270 last year with 37 runs scored, 5 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Corey Howard is also back after hitting .290 a year ago. Catcher Justin Kunz hit .264 last year with 26 runs scored, 12 doubles, 5 home runs and 18 RBI.
Bradley Hallman is back after posting a 3.49 ERA in 98 innings pitched with 53 strikeouts. Landon Mitchell should also return to the starting rotation after posting a 5.40 ERA in 65 innings pitched with 44 strikeouts. Jarrett Thompson was good out of the bullpen with a 4.10 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched with 32 strikeouts. Will Sellers picked up 7 saves last year, while posting a 5.43 ERA in 58 innings pitched with 40 strikeouts.
Gardner-Webb returns enough to the pitching staff to compete in 2018, but they lose a lot from their lineup. If the offense can come around, I could see this team making a small improvement over last year’s win total.
High Point (2017 Record: 30-23, 12-11)
High Point had some high points … in 2017 with wins over Wake Forest and Maryland towards the end of the season, but they eventually were eliminated in the Big South Baseball Tournament by the number one seed Winthrop.
Austen Zente and Hunter Lee are both back and expected to be senior leaders on this team and hope to improve from 2017. Lee hit .278 a year ago with 27 runs scored, while primarily playing second base. Zente led the team with 10 home runs and 34 RBI, while also playing great defense in the outfield. Blake Schunk and Carson Jackson both had solid years in 2017 as well. They return a lot of other key hitters from last year’s team as well. Infielder Travis Holt is expected to compete for playing time right away after having a good fall. The same can be said for two-way player Jacob Kates.
High Point should have a solid 1-2 punch in the starting rotation with Andrew Gottfried and Drew Daczkowski. Gottfried had a solid 3.86 ERA last year in 56 innings pitched with 48 strikeouts. Daczkowski led the team in innings pitched with 76.2, as well as strikeouts with 70 to go along with a 3.29 ERA. Rion Murrah and Matt Hodges were both solid out of the bullpen last year for High Point. A couple of newcomers, Caleb Williams and Harrison Smith, could be fighting for the last spot in the weekend rotation.
The team is hoping to improve on pitching and defense. With a lot of players returning on the infield they expect to be better there defensively. The pitching staff needs to become more consistent in order for them to move up in the standings.
Liberty (2017 Record: 32-23, 16-8)
Liberty had some big wins in 2017 over Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, St. John’s and North Carolina. They finished with the second best record in the Big South Conference, but then went two-and-out in the Big South Tournament.
Outfielder D.J. Artis is back after leading the team with a .359 average, 58 runs scored and 23 stolen bases to go along with 13 doubles, 6 home runs and 45 RBI. Third baseman Trey McDyre is back after hitting .301 with 37 runs scored, 2 home runs and 40 RBI. Four of their top six hitters from last year are gone, so this offense could take a step back.
Garret Price posted a 3.99 ERA last year in 58.2 innings pitched with 57 strikeouts. However, they lose two of their top starting pitchers from last year. Jake Degroat should be back after posting a 2.33 ERA in 38.2 innings pitched with 58 strikeouts and 4 saves.
This team loses a lot both in the lineup and in the pitching staff from a very good 2017 team. It’s hard to see them repeating their success from last year, but they should still be a solid team in the Big South.
Longwood (2017 Record: 19-34, 7-17)
Last year was not an easy season for Longwood as they finished with the worst record in the Big South Conference and were the only team in the conference not to reach the 20-win mark.
Shortstop Antwaun Tucker will start in the middle of the infield in 2017 after hitting .298 in 2017 with 29 runs scored, 3 home runs, 23 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Outfielder Ryan Shull hit .276 with 28 runs scored last year. Sammy Miller also returns to the outfield after hitting .272 a year ago with 32 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. Longwood also returns first baseman Justin Mitchell who hit 3 home runs and drove in 32 last year.
Zach Potojecki is expected to be a weekend starter after posting a 4.57 ERA in 63 innings pitched with 82 strikeouts last year. Steven Farkas could be another weekend starter after posting a 3.38 ERA a year ago in 50.2 innings pitched with 58 strikeouts. Freshman Maceo Campbell could have an immediate impact on the pitching staff, as could junior college transfer Nick Fuchs.
Head Coach Ryan Mau would love to see the pitching staff get back to its 2016 pace when it had a 4.71 ERA and helped the team with 32 games. If they can improve on their 5.94 ERA from a year ago and continue their big strikeout totals (school record 511 in 2017), we could see a big turnaround for Longwood in 2018.
Presbyterian (2017 Record: 32-29, 15-9)
It was a very good 2017 season for Presbyterian as they won 15 conference games and had out-of-conference wins over Alabama and Auburn. They battled all the way to the Big South Tournament Championship game, but came up short against Radford.
Catcher T.J. Richardson returns for his senior season after hitting .335 last year with 2 home runs and 25 RBI. Head Coach Elton Pollock also said that he’s a plus defender behind the dish. Nick Wise and Nick Guimbarda both return in the outfield after they each hit .302 last year. Wise added 34 runs scored, 6 home runs and 22 RBI, while Guimbarda had 30 runs scored, 4 home runs, 16 doubles and 31 RBI. A.J. Priaulx will also return to the lineup after hitting .271 a year ago with 27 runs scored, 11 doubles, and a team-high 8 home runs and 42 RBI. He’ll see time at first base and in the outfield. A couple of junior college transfers could have an immediate impact on the lineup in catcher Mike Varga and infielder Jonathan White.
Tanner Chock started 14 games last year and posted a 4.65 ERA in 79.1 innings pitched with 68 strikeouts. He should certainly receive a spot in the weekend rotation. Eric Miles could get one of those spots as well after posting a 3.06 ERA last year in 64.2 innings pitched with 45 strikeouts. Ryan Hedrick and Will Smith both had solid years out of the bullpen in 2017. Hedrick had a 3.50 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 10 saves in 27 appearances, while Smith had a 2.77 ERA in 26 innings pitched with 23 strikeouts. Junior college transfer Chase Blueberg was drafted in the 36th round of last year’s draft, but decided to play at Presbyterian instead. He should have a huge impact on the pitching staff. Freshman left-handed pitcher Austin Paradis could see some significant innings as well.
“I hope we will be consistent from start to finish in all aspects. Looking for improvements in our defensive production, and continued improvements on the mound and at the plate. We have lots of good upperclassmen leadership to build on.” – Head Coach Elton Pollock
Radford (2017 Record: 27-32, 11-13)
It was a disappointing regular season for Radford, but then they caught fire towards the end. They breezed through the Big South Tournament on their way to a championship winning four straight games. They were invited to the Louisville Regional where they went two-and-out.
First baseman Spencer Horwitz led the team in hitting as a freshman with a .311 average to go along with 35 runs scored, 11 doubles, 8 home runs and 34 RBI. Second baseman Kyle Butler hit .308 last year with 48 runs scored, 13 doubles, 2 home runs and 33 RBI. Outfielder Adam Whitacre hit .268 last year with 32 runs scored and 9 stolen bases. Third baseman Matt Roth is also back after hitting .253 with 27 runs scored, 7 doubles, 1 home runs and 20 RBI.
Zack Ridgely should lead the rotation again after posting a 2.84 ERA in 95 innings pitched with 85 strikeouts last year. Ryan Sande had a 3.97 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched with 31 strikeouts. Evan Threehouse posted a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 innings pitched with 38 strikeouts. Austin Gerber posted a 3.98 ERA in 54.1 innings pitched with 33 strikeouts.
There is a lot coming back in both the lineup and the pitching staff from 2017. I expect Radford to have another really good year and contend for the Big South championship.
UNC Asheville (2017 Record: 25-32, 11-13)
The Bulldogs made it to the semi-finals of the Big South Baseball Tournament last year, but eventually lost to the fifth seeded Radford.
This team really struggled on offense in 2017, but they have a couple of key pieces coming back in third baseman Brandon Lankford and infielder Danny Wilson. Lankford hit .268 last year with 37 runs scored, 10 home runs and 46 RBI, while being named a Freshman All-American. Wilson led the team with a .269 average to go along with 27 runs scored, 4 home runs, 29 RBI and 11 stolen bases. Others will have to step up in 2018 to help this offense get on track.
Greg Gasparro was the Saturday starter as a freshman last year, posting a 4.61 ERA in 66.1 innings pitched with 53 strikeouts. He’ll get one of the weekend spots this year, but the other two spots are up for grabs. Head Coach Scott Friedholm could look to senior Nick Boyles to close out games this year. A couple of newcomers who could have an immediate impact on this team are Beau Nichols, Ethan Tressler and Cody Wilson.
Head Coach Scott Friedholm said the team needs to focus on improving on their overall pitching staff and offense, as well as cleaning things up on defense a bit.
Winthrop (2017 Record: 34-24, 17-7)
It was a very good 2017 season for Winthrop as they won 34 games and finished first in the Big South standings. But after losing the second game of the Big South Baseball Tournament they failed to work themselves out of the loser’s bracket and were eliminated in the semi-finals.
First Team Big South Conference shortstop Mitch Spires returns to lead the offense after hitting .345 last year with 49 runs scored, 14 doubles, 3 home runs and 36 RBI. Outfielder Hunter Lipscomb should also be back in the starting lineup after hitting .292 with 34 runs scored, 6 home runs and a team-high 60 RBI. Head Coach Tom Riginos said they return 7-of-9 starters from last year’s team, so we should see another solid offensive performance from Winthrop in 2018. Junior College transfer Cale Gibson could see time in the lineup and on the mound, while freshman Dillon Morton is also expected to have an immediate impact.
Coach Riginos also said he has 3-of-4 starting pitchers coming back and their top two relievers from 2017. Nate Pawelzyk had a 2.23 ERA last year in 76.2 innings with 69 strikeouts. Colten Rendon had a 4.19 ERA as a freshman in 86 innings pitched with 53 strikeouts. Those two should return to the weekend rotation. Zach Peek, who throws in the mid-90’s, had a 3.70 ERA in 56 innings with 41 strikeouts. Freshman Cody Whitten could get some innings in his first year with Winthrop.
The 2018 Winthrop Baseball team has the potential to be the best team we have had since we took over in 2011. The expectation of this team will be winning a Big South Conference Championship and advancing to an NCAA regional. Pitching and defense will be a strength coming into the season led by Colton Rendon — Collegiate Baseball Freshman All American, Big South Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year, and 1st team All-conference; He will be joined by 1st Team All-BSC pitcher Nate Pawelczyk, and Zack Peek (top pro prospect in the Valley League this summer). If we can stay healthy this team has the potential to have an outstanding year. I believe this team is a preseason top 25 team.” – Head Coach Tom Riginos
2018 All-Big South Preseason Team
C: Zach Minnick (Campbell)
1B: Spencer Horwitz (Radford)
2B: Kyle Butler (Radford)
SS: Mitch Spires (Wintrhop)
3B: Jason Miller (Charleston Southern)
OF: Hunter Lipscomb (Winthrop)
OF: Matt Barefoot (Campbell)
OF: D.J. Artis (Liberty)
DH: Chandler Redmond (Gardner-Webb)
SP: Drew Daczkowski (High Point)
SP: Nate Pawelzyk (Winthrop)
SP: Bradley Hallman (Gardner-Webb)
SP: Zack Ridgely (Radford)
SP: Garret Price (Liberty)
RP: Cody Smith (Charleston Southern)
RP: Jake Degroat (Liberty)
RP: Ryan Hedrick (Presbyterian)
C: T.J. Richardson (Presbyterian)
1B: A.J. Priaulx (Presbyterian)
3B: Brandon Lankford (UNC Asheville)
OF: Austen Zente (High Point)
OF: Jeff Hahs (Campbell)
SP: Zach Potojecki (Longwood)
SP: Steven Farkas (Longwood)
SP: Tanner Chock (Presbyterian)
SP: Colton Rendon (Winthrop)
RP: Wes Noble (Campbell)
RP: Zach Peek (Winthrop)
Predicted Order to Finish:
- High Point
- Charleston Southern
- UNC Asheville