Welcome to day one of our 2014 Charlotte 49ers baseball preview. It’s hard to believe, but we’re just two weeks out from first pitch between the Niners and Youngstown State at Robert and Mariam Hayes Stadium. Throughout the weekend, to get you ready for baseball, we’ll profile the team, position by position–starting with pitchers today, the infield tomorrow and the outfield on Sunday.
Let’s kick off our preview with a look at the pitching staff.
Who’s gone: Pitching coach Brandon Hall loses two of his three weekend starters. John Hamilton (6-3, 2.76 ERA) graduated last May while Tyler Barnette (6-3, 3.97) ended his collegiate career early and turned pro, being drafted by, and then signing, with the Chicago White Sox. The pen loses a few arms–Wes Hatley (31.1 IP, 2.30) and Sean Pope among them.
Who’s back: Senior Brock Hudgens had himself quite a year in 2013, pitching his way to All Atlantic-10 honors and an all-state second team pick (7-1, 2.77 ERA). What can he do for an encore? We’ll have to see if the Jamestown, NC native has what it takes to compete against the rest of Conference USA.
In the bullpen, redshirt senior Corey Roberts, along with true seniors Jason Harris, Ryan Mas and Hunter May and fellow redshirt senior Jordan Hudson, bring some experience to the table. Mas, in 34 IP, recorded a 2.38 ERA, allowing 38 hits and only nine earned runs; Hudson (24.1 IP, 2.96 ERA) allowed just eight earned runs on the mound. May and Harris saw the most time out of the pen, combining for 88.2 IP and 34 earned runs allowed–there’s a chance we may see Harris start at times this year like he did in 2013. Roberts battled injury throughout the year but was sharp once he recovered (19.2 IP, 5 ER). Sophomores Adam Huffman (9.2 IP, 0.93 ERA), Micah Wells (18.1 IP, 2.95) and Sean Geoghehan (17.1 IP, 4.67) return and look to build on their freshman seasons. Two-way Corbin Shive (redshirted in 2013) and Nate Traugh provide some depth for a staff that struggled at points in 2013, but definitely provide that NCAA tournament experience that the younger guys can feed off of.
Who’s new: Freshmen Matt Davis and Austin Wynn and JUCO transfers Brett Bond and Ryan Butler are the only non-two-way pitchers being brought in this year, while Eric Eason, Jeremy Schellhorn, Logan Sherer and Brandon Vogler (son of former Niner Mark Vogler, a member of the first team in program history) saw time both on the mound and in the field in high school. Davis, who might see some significant time, was an Atlantic Region honorable mention pick after his senior season in high school and struck out 62 batters in just 40.1 innings as Ashley High School (NC)’s closer. Wynn, a local product (South Meck), won a state title with the Sabres last season.
Bond and Butler join the fray, along with redshirt freshman Weston Smith. Butler comes in from Northwest Florida State and before that was a member of Marshall’s staff. The Ardrey Kell grad didn’t play last season but hopes to show the stuff that led the Yankees to take him in the 16th round of the MLB Draft last year. Bond, 7-10 as a starter with Barton County CC over two years and who just might figure into the weekend rotation here, is a control pitcher (just 18 BB allowed in 43.1 IP last year), but his runs allowed total is just a little high. Smith struck out 112 in his senior season of high school (2012) and hopes that it will translate to a successful collegiate career.