FRESH FACES HOPE TO GIVE HAWKS NEW LOOK IN 2008
Oct. 8, 2007
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) baseball team, in its second year under Head Coach William Gardner, will open the 2008 season with an eight game home stand that begins on February 24 against Rider University. The Hawks will host Rider, Lehigh, and the University of Rhode Island during that stretch.
UMES is looking for a strong start to the season after finishing 10-45(5-13 MEAC) in Coach Gardner's first year. The Hawks will have to do it with only eight returnees, a host of newcomers, and a new assistant coach. Gardner added Mick Bigwood (Delaware Valley College) as a pitching coach in the off-season to help prepare the Hawks pitching staff for a tough non-conference schedule that features the likes of power conference schools Villanova, West Virginia, Georgetown, Maryland, George Washington, and Virginia Military Institute.
"I'm excited about the non-conference schedule and we should compete in every ball game," said Gardner. "The level of competition is solid and will help us improve our standards."
The Hawks lose 12 players from last season, five to graduation, which includes Dustin Longchamps and Eric Gaines who signed to play for the New York State League's Utica Brewmasters. Also gone is all-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) second-team member Joel Gonzalez, who exhausted his eligibility after the 2007 season. Gaines and Gonzalez were a major part of the Hawk offense as they combined for a hitting average of .323 with 121 hits, 70 runs, 19 doubles, 49 RBI, 57 walks, 27 stolen bases, a .403 slugging percentage, and a .425 on-base percentage (OBP).
Only two players return to the infield from last season. Leading the way is senior Kenny Richardson (Princess Anne, Md./Washington H.S.) who hit .240 with 17 runs, 11 RBI, and a .342 OBP. Richardson could split time at third base and will be part of the Hawks pitching staff again this season. Also returning to the infield is junior Tyler Love (Palmyra, Pa./Coppin State University) who had 29 starts with a .327 OBP.
The Hawks will rely on several newcomers to man the bases this season and could potentially have nine new starters.
"We have a strong recruiting class," said Gardner. "Every position was improved with these additions and it should give us a strong foundation to continue to improve the overall status of the program."
Competing for the starting spot at catcher will be junior Ryan Coppi (Omaha, Neb./Ellsworth C.C.) one of three transfers from Ellsworth Community College in Iowa. "Coppi handles pitchers well and is a solid offensive threat in the heart of the order," said Gardner.
Junior Pat Hercinger (Papillion, Neb./Ellsworth C.C.), one of Coppi's former teammates making the switch to Division I, is expected to compete for a starting position at first or third base. "Hercinger is a strong defensive corner guy and should hit in the heart of the order," added Gardner.
Expected to join Coppi and Hercinger in the infield at second base or shortstop is their former teammate junior Josh Dunham (Des Moines, Iowa/Ellsworth C.C.). He should bat one or two in the order. "Dunham will provide strong leadership in the middle part of the infield," said Gardner.
Remo Orsini (Elkton, Md./Elkton H.S.) one of three freshmen on the team will compete for a starting spot in the infield opposite Dunham. "Orsini is a good athlete and has the potential to be our lead-off guy," said Gardner.
Competing with Coppi for the starting catcher position will be transfer and defensive specialist junior Michael Guy (Lake Ariel, Pa./Salem C.C.). "Guy handles pitchers well and will be able to control the running game with his defensive ability," said Gardner.
Junior Russel Deutschmann (Baden, Ontario/Erie C.C.) will split time at first base and in the Hawks pitching staff.
The Hawks return Derrick Baker (Clinton, Md./Gwynn Park H.S.) as the only outfielder from last season. Baker should add depth in the outfield after starting in 35 games last season, contributing with 17 runs and seven RBI.
Expected to compete for an outfield position with Baker will be sophomore Bryan Chaikowsky (Bethlehem, Pa./Northampton Area C.C.). "Chaikowsky provides power from the left side of the plate in the middle part of the order," said Gardner.
Sophomore Phillip Vaughn (Clinton, Md./Salisbury University) will compete for the final outfield position. Vaughn covers a lot of ground in the outfield and will provide speed on the bases.
Others that will compete for playing time in the outfield include freshman John Goray (Pittsburgh, Pa./LaSalle H.S.) and Pichardo.
The loss of Longchamps is a major blow to the Hawks pitching staff. Longchamps recorded a team high four wins in 112 innings of work with a 4.26 ERA and 101 strikeouts.
Senior right-hander Richardson and junior left-hander Mike Roberts (Bel Air, Md./C.Milton Wright H.S.) could potentially fill in two of the starting spots in the Hawks rotation. Roberts was 2-12 with a 7.98 ERA last season.
Also returning to the mound for UMES is senior Daniel Sterling (Crisfield, Md./Crisfield H.S.), junior Brian White (Virginia Beach, Va./Tallwood H.S.), and sophomores Carl Huber (Mt. Airy, Md./Montgomery College-Germantown) and Jervonta' Wright (Salisbury, Md./Virginia Union University). Sterling and Huber had 18 relief appearances apiece last season for the Hawks.
The addition of juniors Deutschmann, Elliott Arrington (Upper Marlboro, Md./Prince George's C.C.), and freshman Witte will add depth to the pitching staff.
Excitement is in the air here in Princess Anne as the Hawks prepare for another exciting season of baseball.
"Our style of play will be the same as it always was," said Gardner. "We were able to put together a solid lineup top to bottom and should be better offensively. Defensively, we are improved and hopefully it will give our pitching staff confidence when they are on the mound."