Eagles adjusting to new faces in lineup

Owen Reid, mostly a reliever last year, has emerged as a potential starter this season.
Owen Reid, mostly a reliever last year, has emerged as a potential starter this season.

Owen Reid's first year with the Winthrop baseball team was one of transition. He was coming in after spending his freshman year at Baylor, traveling halfway across the country to re-start his college baseball career.

He's only been an Eagle for a year.

But now he's one of the old men on the team, welcoming 13 new faces to the program.

"It clicked right away, to be honest with you," Reid said of the team chemistry, which has undergone a severe overhaul after a tumultuous summer. "Even though there's so many different personalities and different faces, you wonder how guys are going to get along.

"I think overall, the chemistry has clicked extremely well so far and I would expect it to get nothing but better."

With seniors graduating and players transferring, the Eagles signed a solid recruiting class to replace the losses. Fall practice began three weeks ago and Winthrop hit the diamond sporting a new look.

It was fitting, considering The Winthrop Ballpark has finally been completed, giving the Eagles their own completely self-contained home. The team began with drills and then started intrasquad scrimmages, giving them an idea of who would be in the lineup when Feb. 22, the season-opener, rolls around.

Not that it will be set in stone then. As the fall continues, veterans are getting pushed for their jobs and every position in the pitching staff is up for grabs.

"I think our starting lineup and our rotation in our first game is going to be quite a bit different from whatever our starting lineup and rotation's going to be in May," coach Joe Hudak said. "Positionally, it's a positive thing. On the mound, we've got to have guys step up."

With only four scrimmages under their belts, the Eagles have looked good. Returnees John Murrian, Kevin Nolan and Billy Froehlich have led the offense while newbies Bennett Jordan, Eddie Rohan and Brad Deal have been swinging hot bats.

Three veterans -- Josh McDonald, Ryan Schwartz and Reid -- have impressed on the hill, Reid blossoming from a reliever last year into a potential starter. All the pitchers are being challenged by the six hurlers that have joined the program, including two local standouts, Hamilton Bennett and Cam Walters.

Obviously, Hudak and his staff are only going to learn so much when the team is playing itself. But they hope to have an idea of who their best players are, so they can begin cementing the gameplan after Christmas.

"We're trying to see guys in different roles," Hudak said. "I think the young guys are really pushing the older guys. We have some upperclassmen who should play, but they're getting pushed by these young guys."

The chemistry seems to already be in place. Reid said the rookies were immediately welcomed and Jordan echoed it.

"I think we all are that group that will stay together four years and develop something pretty good," said Jordan, a York native, of the newcomers. "I only knew three or four of them and now I've met five new guys that I seem like I've known forever."

The Eagles will practice until Nov. 7 and will hold their annual Banana Split Series on the last two weekends of fall practice. On Oct. 26-28 and Nov. 2-4, the team will play six intrasquad scrimmages with the losers buying the winners banana splits at the final team party before fall exams. Winthrop will also hold other scrimmages on the weekends leading up to the series. Admission is free and fans are advised to check for times.

• NOTE: The Eagles have been slightly bitten by the injury bug, with third baseman Bryn Henderson playing defensively but working back into his hitting form after tearing a wrist ligament over the summer. Froehlich has been hitting and working back to full strength on his throwing while recovering from tendinitis, and pitcher Ryan Mullins is also rehabbing from tendinitis.

Freshman outfielder Brandon Sills separated his shoulder during a recent scrimmage and could miss two weeks or more while recovering.

Winthrop has 13 newcomers to its baseball team, which is at the halfway point of fall practice.

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