Mercer Baseball Opens Fall Practice Wednesday
MACON, Ga. – The Mercer baseball team began its first full-team practice in preparation for the 2012 season on Wednesday afternoon at Claude Smith Field.
The Bears return 13 letterwinners and six starters (four position players and two pitchers) back from a record setting 2011 squad that went 39-20 overall and finished the season ranked #56 in the National Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
“I think there is a lot of excitement amongst our guys to get started and I think our team chemistry has been really good considering all the new guys we have coming in,” head coach Craig Gibson said. “This group is going to give us a chance to win every day because they put the work in over the summer, and since they have gotten on campus the work in the weight room and in our 4-1-1 drills has been outstanding as well.”
“We lost a lot of special guys from last year’s team, but this is a new cycle and hopefully this new cycle of guys will help us win another championship.”
In the field, junior Evan Boyd and sophomores DJ Johnson, Derrick Workman and Austin Barrett all are back in the fold giving Coach Gibson a good nucleus offensively.
Boyd started all 59 games at shortstop last season and batted .265 with 22 RBI and 44 runs scored.
Johnson played second base and came in as a relief pitcher for Mercer last season and impressed enough people to be named to the 2011 A-Sun All-Freshman team. The Adel, Ga. native batted .263 at the dish while compiling a 1-2 record and a 1.91 ERA in 33.0 innings pitched.
Workman had a breakout freshman season with the bat, hitting .332 with nine home runs and 47 RBI on his way to being voted onto the 2011 Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American Team.
Barrett started 50 out of a possible 59 games for the Bears behind the plate last season and batted .286 with eight home runs and 25 RBI to earn a spot on the 2011 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshmen All-American second team.
On the mound, Mercer returns two of its three weekend starters in senior Brandon Love and sophomore Brandon Barker.
Love put together one of the best seasons ever by a Mercer pitcher in 2011, racking up an 8-1 record and a 3.26 ERA in 80.0 innings pitched to take home a 2011 A-Sun All-Conference first team selection.
Barker joined Johnson and Workman on the 2011 A-Sun All-Freshman team after finishing the season with a perfect 4-0 record to go along with a 3.38 ERA in 53.1 innings pitched.
Junior David Randall also returns to the club after sitting out most of the 2011 season due to injury and figures to be one of the frontrunners to secure the final weekend rotation spot.
Two key bullpen arms are also back at Coach Gibson’s disposal this season. Junior David Teasley (32 appearances, 4.57 ERA) and senior Jacob Matthews (25 appearances, 3.34 ERA) return and will lead a group of young arms looking to secure relief roles in 2012.
The Bears have multiple options to fill the voids left by players who either graduated or were drafted, welcoming in 18 newcomers for the 2012 season.
“Position wise, Chesney Young is a special guy who can play anywhere on the baseball field and CJ Reed is a very polished guy who can step in and play right away,” Gibson said. “Looking at our junior college guys, David Reid-Foley is going to be exceptional behind the plate, Logan Gaines is an athletic guy that can play anywhere and Jamie McMillan is going to give us a presence in the lineup as a left-handed hitting first baseman.”
“The group of pitchers we have coming in is collectively one of the best I have seen since I have been a head coach here. Really pleased with Dimitri Kourtis, Eric Nyquist and Ben Lumsden so far just to name a few. Kevin Werner and Morgan Pittman look like good guys in the pen for us who will create match-up problems and I just think overall the future is bright for us and I think this group is going to be special.”
Starting this week, the team is practicing five days a week leading up to the annual Orange and Black World Series. The best-of-five intersquad match-up begins on October 24 and ends on October 30 at Claude Smith Field.