February 20, 2009

Winthrop baseball team ready to start season

The Winthrop baseball team has played more intrasquad games than ever this year. The weather has cooperated and coach Joe Hudak has enough pitching depth that it all worked.

The upside is Eagles' hitters have already gotten 50 to 70 at-bats against live pitching. The downside is the team has grown tired of it.

Today, Winthrop gets an earlier start to the season than anticipated. The start times for the Johnny Gill Memorial Tournament at The Winthrop Ballpark have been changed due to the expected cold weather in the area.

Eastern Michigan and George Washington play at 11:30 a.m. Winthrop and Eastern Michigan are slated for a 3 p.m. first pitch, up an hour from the original scheduled start.

The Eagles play two games Saturday -- at noon against George Washington and at 3:30 p.m. versus Eastern Michigan.

The earlier start time creates no changes to Hudak's starting rotation. Sophomore Matteo D'Angelo will start on the mound for the Eagles. Eastern Michigan, out of Ypsilanti, Mich., will go with Tim Combs.

D'Angelo is happy to be back in a starting role. He pitched primarily in middle relief for Hudak in his freshman season. The native of Bologna, Italy, has been a starter throughout his young career.

"Last year was new to me. Right now, I'm getting used to being a starter again," D'Angelo said.

D'Angelo put up good numbers in the fall (2.97 ERA, 24 strikeouts and six walks in 27 1-3 innings).

Combs, a sophomore out of Dayton, Ohio, made just three starts as a freshman and appeared 20 times out of the pen. He was 2-0 with a 7.02 ERA.

Eastern Michigan first-year coach Jay Alexander will go with another Dayton-area starter against Winthrop on Saturday. Jordan Goldschmidt, a sophomore, will get the nod. He also made three starts last season and was 1-3 with a hefty 20.14 ERA. He allowed 52 hits in 21 innings.

George Washington will throw Eric Cantrell on Saturday. He was 5-4 in 11 starts last season. He struck out 66 batters in 71 2-3 innings. The Colonials have yet to name Monday's starter.

Winthrop's John Murrian is just eager to see some pitching other than that of his teammates. The junior catcher hit .301 with seven home runs last year.

He had a very productive fall season at the plate. He said the bat was slow to come around this spring, but he's ready.

"These guys are really working hard. We have a lot of guys battling for playing time. We just want to get out and prove something this year," Murrian said.

Hudak is as excited about the start of this season as he's ever been.

"We are more athletic than we have been ... That gives us some opportunities to do more things," Hudak said.

He said he'll have 11 or 12 guys start during this four-game opening weekend tournament. He has at least four players vying for starting spots with freshmen Garrett Koster, Chas Crane and Sean Sullivan along with junior transfer Matt Thielepape.

Koster, a product of Fort Mill, has played shortstop all his life. Junior Kevin Nolan has that position locked up. But Koster is a good athlete. He's been working at second and centerfield.

"I hope I get to play. My parents and grandparents will be here," Koster said.

Hudak hinted Thursday that Koster would start today at second base. That move would move Bryn Henderson to third.

A couple injuries of note are former Northwestern standout Cam Walters who tweaked his left forearm (throwing arm). He will miss this weekend's games.

Also, left-hander Tyler McBride will miss his scheduled start on the mound in Saturday's second game. He took a ground ball off his left index finger. McBride, who also plays the outfield, can field and bat just fine.

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