Series Preview: UNC Wilmington (7-3)

The Terps (7-2) have headed south for the fourth straight weekend and will play their first true road series of the season.

They’ll take on the UNC Wilmington Seahawks (7-3), who have been the class of the Colonial Athletic Conference since its inception 30 years ago. The Seahawks are looking for their 17th consecutive winning season and third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years.

UNC W beat NC Central 9-3 on Wednesday after getting swept by Florida State last weekend. However, the Seahawks hung with the Seminoles, losing the three games by a total of four runs.

UNC Wilmington field

Strengths

1. Experience – Wilmington is led by seniors Corey Dick and Luke Dunlap, both of whom have racked up several All-Conference and Freshman All American accolades. Four other starters are entering their third year of college baseball, two of which started last year. All in all, four of this year’s Seahawks starters were in the lineup during their NCAA Regional run in 2013.

2. The Bullpen – Austin Magestro, William Shepley and Jordan Ramsey have been lights out through the first 10 games, allowing only 3 ER over 25.2 IP (1.05 ERA). Considering that none of their weekend starters pitched past the fifth inning last weekend, we could see a lot of Magestro, Shepley and Ramsey this weekend.

3. Coaching – Mark Scalf has built a dynasty on the North Carolina coast. He’s won 11 CAA titles (8 regular season, 3 tournaments), 758 games and produced 58 pro players. He’s looking for his seventh NCAA Tournament berth in 24 seasons at the helm in Wilmington.

Weaknesses

1. Throwing Strikes – The Seahawks’ pitching staff walked 27 batters in 24 innings against Florida State last weekend and is averaging 7.8 BB/9 on the year. This plays right into Maryland’s hands, as their patient approach should serve them well this weekend. Brandon Lowe and LaMonte Wade will likely be on base a ton, and it’ll be up to the middle of the order to come up with timely hits.

2. Reliable Starting Pitching – Nick Monroe leads Wilmington with 14 innings pitched over three starts, meaning all of their starting pitchers are averaging less than 5 IP per start. If the Terps can prolong that trend, they should be able to get deep into the UNCW bullpen.

SATURDAY AT NOON

So. RHP Mike Shawaryn (3-0, 1.80) vs. Jr. RHP Nick Monroe (1-0, 3.86) 

702981 Shawaryn HS vs. Monroe UNCW UNC W

Shawaryn has been downright dominant over his last two starts. The line: 14 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 18 K. The Seahawks’ lineup should provide a much-needed challenge for the sophomore hurler. Shawaryn has already amassed 14 wins in his Terrapins career, and seems to thrive early in the season.

Monroe was a two-way player last year, but has settled in to the Saturday starter role in 2015. His overall numbers are respectable, but walks are an issue for him, having walked 13 hitters in 14 innings.

SATURDAY AT 4 PM

Fr. LHP Willie Rios (2 IP, 0.00) vs. Jr. RHP Ryan Foster (1-0, 3.75)

702981 Rios vs.  Foster UNC W UNC W

Rios will make his first collegiate start after being used sparingly out of the bullpen. He answered the call in each of his first two outings, tossing a scoreless inning in each. Rios hit 94 mph on the gun against Appalachian State last Saturday and is one of the more highly rated recruits to ever attend Maryland. It will be interesting to see how deep he’s allowed to go on Saturday and whether his velocity holds over several innings.

Foster finished top 10 in the conference in ERA last year (3.47), providing support behind ace Mat Batts. He’s kept his opponents in check again in 2015, but is allowing them to hit at a .302 clip against him.

SUNDAY AT 1 PM

Fr. RHP Brian Shaffer (1-0, 6.00) vs. Jr. RHP Evan Phillips (1-0, 7.88)

702981 Shaffer vs. Phillips UNCW UNC W

Shaffer had a nice bounceback outing last weekend against Appalchian State, allowing two runs on four hits over six innings of work. He picked up the win and has only walked one batter over his first 12 innings of work.

On the other hand, Evan Phillips has issued nine free passes in eight innings through his first three starts. He’s been hittable too, and is looking to get his college career on track after being drafted by the Royals out of high school.

Weekend Series Preview: Appalachian State

The Terps (5-1) are traveling to Emerson, Georgia to avoid the snow this weekend and will “host” the Appalachian State Mountaineers for a three game set beginning at 12:45pm Friday afternoon. Maryland is coming off a 13-6 come-from-behind win against Arkansas last Sunday.

Scouting the Mountaineers

Appalachian State (3-3) is entering their first season in the Sun Belt Conference, one of the most respected mid major college baseball leagues in America. They went 12-14 in the Southern Conference last year, finishing 21-34 overall.

Jones
Billy Jones has coached at four different powerhouse programs

The program is under the direction of third-year head coach Billy Jones. In his long career, Jones has coached at some of the nation’s best programs – including Oregon State, Arizona State and NC State. His longest and most recent stop came in Stillwater, where he helped lead the Oklahoma State Cowboys to six Regional appearances in eight seasons.

App. State returns 22 of 35 letterwinners from last year’s team, including some important middle-of-the-order pieces.

They’ve begun the season 3-3, with their most impressive win coming on Wednesday against Wake Forest. The Terps and Mountaineers already have a common opponent in Canisius. The Terps knocked off the Golden Griffiths 8-4 on Opening Weekend, while Appalachian State dropped two of three to Canisius this past weekend.

Senior 2B Michael Pierson was the Mountaineer’s leading hitter (.343) last year and is off to a great start again in 2015, starting the season at .385 with a pair of home runs and a team-high six RBIs.

Junior infielder Dillon Dobson is also off to a great start. The North Carolina native is 9 for his first 24 (.375). He posted a .720 slugging percentage in conference play a year ago en route to a First Team All-Conference honor.

Jr. CF Jaylin Davis is the main speed threat for App. State, and is 5-for-5 on the base paths to begin the year. He batted .280 a year ago and is at .385 to start this season. He holds the school record for single-season triples (7) and has homered twice off White Sox first round pick Carlos Rodon.

Sr. Bradley Morton has two home runs through the team’s first six games, Fr. 1B Conner Leonard is a major recruit and Jr. Grayson Atwood is a transfer from powerhouse North Carolina.

  

Starting Pitching Matchups

 

FRIDAY AT 1 PM

So. RHP Mike Shawaryn (2-0, 2.08) vs. Sr. LHP Jeffrey Springs (0-0, 2.89)

Shawaryn HS702981 vs. App State Springs

Shawaryn is coming off a dominant outing against South Alabama. The sophomore ace allowed just three hits and one walk over seven innings. The New Jersey native has won his first two starts of 2015 after breaking the school record with eleven last year.

Springs is a four-year letterwinner at Appalachian State and the leader of an unproven staff. He’s worked his way up the pecking order during his four years and is now at the top of the rotation as a senior. He led the team in strikeouts as the Sunday starter in 2014. He enters this weekend without a decision thus far. The North Carolina southpaw threw five shutout innings against Davidson on Opening Day but had a much tougher go against Canisius last weekend, giving up three runs through 4.1 IP.

 SATURDAY AT 4 PM

So. LHP Tayler Stiles (0-1, 5.00) vs. Fr. RHP Travis Holden (0-0, 0.00)

 Stiles HS 702981 vs. App State Holden 2

Stiles has had one excellent start and one poor one. He allowed no earned runs in   innings against Old Dominion to help the Terps complete a perfect opening weekend in Myrtle Beach, but got knocked out early, giving up   runs against a ranked UCF team last weekend.

Holden has gotten off to a terrific start as a true freshman. The Georgia native will get his first college start in his home state. All told, Holden has allowed only two base runners in six innings of relief thus far (4 vs. Canisius, 2 vs. Villanova).

SUNDAY AT 11 AM

Fr. RHP Brian Shaffer (0-0, 9.00) vs. TBD

Shaffer 702981 vs. App State

Shaffer had a perfect fist inning against a heavy hitting Arkansas team last Sunday but fell victim to the long ball after that, giving up two dingers, six runs and eight hits after that. The freshman righty looks to bounce back against the Mountaineers after a tough first college start.

Caravelle Resort Tournament Preview

by John Vittas

Executive Summary.pmd
Computer-generated image of the newly renovated stadium in Conway, S.C. that will host this weekend’s Caravelle Resort Tournament.

Call it the tournament of elite mascots. The Caravelle Regional Tournament in Myrtle Beach features the Hilltoppers, Golden Griffins, Monarchs, Chanticleers and Terrapins. I mean, really, find me a weakness.

But while you may think the tournament depth ends with the mascot discussion, think again. All five of these teams are likely to be winning clubs and all have a legitimate chance at reaching the NCAA Tournament. In fact, Canisius is a heavy favorite to win the MAAC, while Coastal Carolina and Old Dominion are already considered bubble teams. So Western Kentucky should be an easy win, right? Not exactly. The Hilltoppers batted .307 in conference play last year (.291 overall) and return six of their nine starters.

So while Maryland’s overall season schedule may be weaker than last year’s, their first seven games are against surprisingly talented rosters (UCF, South Alabama and Arkansas next weekend are just as good, if not better).

Here are this weekend’s starting pitching matchups:

Friday – 11am – RHP Mike Shawaryn (Maryland) vs. LHP John Harman (WKU)

WKU logo

Saturday – 10am – LHP Jake Drossner (Maryland) vs. RHP Brandon Bielecki (Canisius)

Canisius logo

5pm – Tayler Stiles (Maryland) vs. LHP Joey Benitez (ODU)

ODU logo

Sunday – 1pm – Bobby Ruse (Maryland) vs. TBD

CCU logo

Maryland’s weekend rotation is stout, and their bullpen could be even better. But many of their opponents this weekend posted better offensive numbers than the Terps did in 2014.

Instead of doing the typical team-by-team breakdown, I figured we’d rank the programs and then the players.

2014 Results

1. Maryland (40-23) – The Terrapins won their first Regional Championship in program history, coming within one win of the College World Series.

2. Old Dominion (36-26) – The Monarchs were the only team in the Caravelle Resort Tournament besides the Terps to make the NCAA Tournament. Ironically, they were in the same region and were knocked out in consecutive games by Maryland and Campbell.

3. Canisius  (40-14) – One of the best teams in the country to not make the NCAA Tournament last year, the Griffs were upset by Siena in the conference tournament.

4. Western Kentucky (29-28) – middle of the pack in a very tough Sun Belt conference last year. They’ve moved on to Conference USA.

5. Coastal Carolina (24-33) – The Chants faired much better in conference play, but weren’t as relevant as they usually are.

Coaches (based on track record)

1. Gary Gilmore (20th Season at Coastal Carolina) – over a thousand career wins (top 50 in CBB history)

– 8-time Big South Coach of the Year

– 19 Big South titles in 19 years (10 regular season, 9 tournaments)

2. Mike McRae (10th Season at Canisius) – 3-time MAAC Coach of the Year

– .622 winning pct over last 6 years, .713 over the last two

– 2-time MAAC Champion

3. John Szefc (3rd Season at Maryland) – broke school record in wins (40 in 2014)

– most wins by any Maryland coach over a 2-year span

– has reached the NCAA Tournament with 5 different schools

4. Chris Finwood (4th Season at Old Dominion) – took team to Regionals in 2014

– 6 years as HC at Western Kentucky, also on staff at VMI, VCU and Auburn

5. Matt Myers (8th Season at Western Kentucky, 4th as head coach) – assistant in SEC at Auburn and Tennessee

Offense

1. Canisius – Griffs return 5 MAAC first teamers from 2014 including National Player of the Year candidate 3B Connor Panas. They batted .307 as a team last year.

2. Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers return six of nine starters including power threat Ryan Church.

3. Maryland – Talented freshman bats join an experienced group that caught fire down the stretch in 2014.

4. Old Dominion – Monarchs return their top four hitters, including outfielder Nick Walker, who was the only freshman to make the First Team All-Conference USA squad.

5. Coastal Carolina – Chants struggled to provide power in a down year for the program in 2014. They do return their leading hitter in utility man Connor Owings, the brother of Diamondbacks SS Chris Owings.

Pitching  

1. Maryland – Sophomore Mike Shawaryn anchors a staff full of draft prospects. Jake Drossner, Tayler Stiles and Bobby Ruse round out a stiff starting unit. The back-end of the bullpen is proven and a bevy of power-throwing freshman round out an impressively deep staff.

2. Coastal Carolina – Andrew Beckwith and Tyler Poole provide a tough late-inning tandem and starters Chase Adkins and Austin Kerr return for another season.

3. Western Kentucky – With a lot of innings available, the roles for the Hilltoppers are uncertain. However, an influx of transfer talent should aid the losses to the rotation. Sophomore Ryan Thurston finished as hot as anyone in 2014, allowing just three runs over his final 28 innings.

4. Canisius – The Griffs only had a handful of reliable arms last year and losing bonafide ace Rohn Pierce won’t help. They are anchored by a legitimate weekend starter in Alex Godzak.

5. Old Dominion – One of the best staffs around in 2014, ODU was decimated by attrition. They lose six of their top seven arms, so this year’s staff is a major question mark.

Defense

While it’s hard to rank defenses, especially before the season, we’ll give Old Dominion the edge. The Monarchs finished in the top 10 percent in the country in fielding percentage last year and finished third in the nation with 68 double plays, a school record.

Top 10 Players to Watch

1. Connor Panas (3B – Canisius)

Panas is a straight stud. The senior Canadian is on the Golden Spikes Watch List after putting up a .362 average with 6 HRs and 51 RBIs last year. Named a Preseason First Team All-American by Louisville Slugger, Panas won the MAAC Player of the Year award for his 2014 performance. He also became just the second baseball player in conference history to win the MAAC Student-Athlete of the Year Award.

2. Anderson Miller (OF – Western Kentucky)

Miller led the team with a .335 average and 40 runs scored in 2014, earning an appearance in the Cape Cod League last summer. Despite being a left-handed hitter, Miller hit .394 against southpaws last year.

3. Brandon Lowe (2B – Maryland)

After missing a year with a knee injury, Lowe finished second in the ACC with a .348 average last year. He also played most of the season with a torn ligament in his thumb. With Lowe finally healthy, the Terps could have an All-American caliber bat at the top of the order.

4. Ryan Church (1B – Western Kentucky)

A JUCO transfer last year, Church provides serious pop at first base. He had a pair of multi-home run games last year and batted .371 with RISP.

5. Mike Shawaryn (RHP – Maryland)

The Terps’ ace earned wins against six ranked teams last year, including against South Carolina on their home field in the NCAA Tournament. He broke the school record in wins with 11, so what can he do for an encore?

6. Alex Godzak (P – Canisius)

Godzak finished 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 2014 and will lead a Canisius staff that could struggle with depth.

7. Nick Walker (OF – Old Dominion)

The only freshman to make First Team All-Conference USA, Walker led the team in batting average, stolen bases and walks.

8. Connor Owings (UT – Coastal Carolina)

The brother of Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings, Connor batted .326 to lead the Chanticleers in 2014. He also led the team in 10 other categories.

9. PJ Higgins (INF – Old Dominion)

Higgins was the only Monarch to start all 60 games last year, which included a 39-game string of reaching base.

10. Anthony Massicci (SS – Canisius)

Massicci led the MAAC in hitting as a sophomore last year, walking a staggering 42 times in the process. He is a career .379 hitter and hit .540 in the seventh inning or later in 2014.