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UVa-Wise opens 2013 baseball today

WISE Va. - UVa-Wise will enter its final season in the NAIA and in the Mid-South Conference in 2013. The Cavaliers are coming off a season in which the club posted a 24-26 overall record and an 8-12 mark in Mid-South play.

Head Coach Hank Banner’s squad saved its best for last in 2012 as the team advanced to the semi-finals of the Mid-South Conference Tournament before losing 6-2 to regular season champion Lindsey Wilson College.

This season, the Cavs are scheduled to play 17 of the season’s first 22 games away from Stallard Field. UVa-Wise will open the season on Friday when the team travels to Reinhardt University for a three game set. The club is scheduled to play its home opener on February 16 when future conference foe Urbana University visits Wise for a three game series. The Cavs will begin league play on March 1 when the team visits the Bears of the University of Pikeville. Overall, UVa-Wise has 50 games scheduled in 2013, including a nine game home stand from March 29 – April 10.

Veteran pitching coach Doug Bates will be charged with the duty of replacing the 230 innings that were lost through graduation and attrition from a year ago. Senior Justin Wilson returns as the ace of the pitching staff. A year ago, Wilson hurled a team-high 74 innings while also leading the team in earned run average, 2.43 and batting average against, .208.

The 2.48 ERA ranked the St. Paul, Va. native seventh in the Mid-South. Milligan College transfer Cody Compton will receive an opportunity to join Wilson in the weekend rotation. A junior, the left handed Compton split time between the bullpen and rotation at Milligan. In 2012, he struck out 19 hitters in 29.2 innings of work in addition to collecting two mound wins. Sophomore Ben Coffman may be poised to secure a slot in the weekend rotation as well. As a freshman, Coffman pitched 26.2 innings surrendering just seven extra base hits. He started six games in 2012, earned two wins, and fanned 19 hitters in his inaugural season. Junior Josh Massie is the only other returner who started a game for the Cavs in 2012.

Spending most of his time in the bullpen, Massie compiled a 4.70 ERA in 7.2 innings while also striking out seven. R.W. Payne and Ryan Ward return to anchor the bullpen after both players had a successful 2012. Payne posted a .237 batting average against and a 2.53 ERA in just over 10 innings. Meanwhile, Ward limited hitters to just a .261 average en route to a 2.91 ERA in his 21.2 innings. Ward tied for the team lead in appearances, 19, while also notching a win and a save with his submarine delivery. Danny Bates will make the transition from the field to the mound in 2013. A three pitch pitcher, the junior right hander can consistently throw in the upper 80’s while commanding his fastball low in the strike zone.

Unquestionably, the strength of the team appears to be at the plate. Brett Hylton and Tommy Meier return for their senior season after each player earned Mid-South All-Conference accolades as a junior. Hylton led the team in home runs, nine, runs batted in, 44, total bases, 92, and in slugging percentage, .554. Meier led the club in average, .373, hits, 69, runs, 39, on base percentage, .459, and stolen bases, 11. The duo either scored or drove in 132 of the team’s 234 runs last season.

In addition, Hylton and Meier were superb defensively; Hylton led the team with four outfield assists while Meier committed only two errors en route to a league leading .993 fielding percentage. Chaz Hall, Kirk Jennings, and Brian King also return for their senior season in a Cavalier uniform. One of the more durable players in the history of the program, Hall has started in 120 games entering his senior campaign. As a junior, the middle infielder joined Meier as the only player to start all 50 games. Jennings possesses a powerful bat and the ability to play first base in addition to seeing time at designated hitter. Through three seasons, Jennings has blasted six home runs and produced 43 RBI. Widely regarded as the top defensive first baseman on the team, King brings a career .302 average into his senior season.

The Chantilly, Va. product led the team with 14 doubles and finished second on the team in RBI with 31 as a junior. Sophomore Steven Allen will look to avoid injury in 2013; a year ago, Allen scored 14 runs and collected four doubles in just 29 games. The second baseman is also willing to take a walk which is evident by his nine walks in just over 100 plate appearances in 2012. The sophomore tandem of Brandon Fletcher and Matt Murphy will see more playing time this season after getting their feet wet with a combined 62 at bats as freshman.

Recruiting Coordinator Erik Lemley’s work could provide major dividends in run production and experienced talent. Ryan Apodaca joined the club this fall after two seasons at Chesapeake Community. The 5’8 Apodaca has the ability to play all three outfield positions and will be given the opportunity to earn a starting nod in the outfield.

Transfer Tyler Hutson is set to provide another power bat for the team. The 6’0, 250 pound first baseman started in all 50 games for Milligan College in 2011 en route to producing 30 RBI and a .287 batting average. The team also added former highly touted baseball prospect and quarterback Tye Marshall to the roster this winter. Marshall will split time between the field and mound in his return to the diamond. A versatile player, Marshall can play middle infield and in the outfield while possessing enough talent to garner significant playing time at any defensive position or on the mound. In addition to Marshall, Nick Impellizzeri enrolled at UVa-Wise following the fall semester after playing at Shepherd University. Like Apodaca, the athletic Impellizzeri will compete for a starting outfield position.

The 2013 Cavs are predicted to finish ninth in the Mid-South according to the conference’s preseason poll that is voted on annually by the league’s coaches. Defending regular season champion Lindsey Wilson College is the preseason favorite while Georgetown College and Cumberland University also received first place votes.

In 2013, the league will hold an eight team tournament beginning at the end of April, teams finishing 9-11 in the regular season standings will not participate in this year’s tournament.


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