Sports

Hudak encouraged with progress

Of course Winthrop coach Joe Hudak isn't pleased with his team's 3-5 record.

But he's encouraged.

The Eagles' five losses have all been against NCAA tournament teams a year ago and to teams that were picked to win their conference championships. Plus, they've only lost by a combined 11 runs, five of which came in the 6-1 defeat to No. 5 North Carolina.

"Certainly not happy being 3-5, especially the way we've pitched," Hudak said. "We've played eight games and you'd like to be 8-0, but realistically, 5-3 would have been good. We're probably two or three hits away from being 7-1."

The first RPI standings will be posted next week but the schedule should benefit the Eagles. Beating strong teams is even better but it's beneficial for a mid-major team to show the NCAA it's at least playing an aggressive schedule.

Hudak could have loaded up on cupcakes and probably been 8-0 at this point but decided not to. That would have just made winning the Big South Conference tournament at the end of the year the only thing that mattered, instead of perhaps winning enough games against a tough schedule and claiming an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

"You look at the schedule some teams are playing and you think we could play them and we'd be 8-0 and everybody'd be thinking, 'Well, they're pretty good,' and that'd be the furthest thing from the truth," Hudak said. "Our whole goal is to prepare our team for winning the Big South and postseason play."

• ON DECK: The Eagles host Wake Forest (4-4) tonight and the most pertinent question was how to pitch to Demon Deacons slugger Allan Dykstra.

"You try not to," Hudak said. "You look at the stats and not many people have. He'll probably add to that total (today)."

Dykstra -- no relation to former major leaguer Lenny "Nails" Dykstra -- slammed 18 home runs a year ago, earning second-team all-ACC honors following his ACC Rookie of the Year campaign in 2006. He hit a solo shot in a 10-8 win over Winthrop in Rock Hill last year and belted two more in an engagement at Wake Forest, but the Eagles won that one 15-9.

He's already hit two homers this year but teams are staying away from him. Dykstra's been issued 11 walks in eight games.

"We've seen him for two years now, and he's just a flat-out great hitter," Hudak said. "If he's up with nobody on, you try to get him out. If he's up with guys on base, unless the bases are loaded, you're going to try not to give him anything good to hit."

The other Deacons are no slouches hitting the ball, either. They've averaged 13 runs in each of their wins.

• ON THE HILL: Junior Dave Carbonell (0-1, 1.80 ERA) is expected to get the ball tonight after a solid effort last week in his first Winthrop start. Carbonell gave up two hits and a run and struck out four against St. John's, but the Eagles' bats were silenced by the Red Storm's Matt Tosoni, 2-0.

Carbonell has had an interesting two weeks at Winthrop. His brother, J.R. Carbonell, pitched for Evansville when the Purple Aces were in Rock Hill for the season-opener. Then an old teammate from Elgin (Ill.) Community College, Doug Sanders, showed up with Kent State last weekend.

"Nice to see people you know on good teams, good programs," Carbonell said. "Everybody kind of moving up together."

Carbonell also took part in the "March Mohawk" head-shaving exercise some of the Eagles began, cutting his hair into a variation of Mr. T's look.

• A FAMILY AFFAIR: Carbonell wasn't the only player to see a familiar face across the diamond over the weekend. Designated hitter Eddie Rohan's cousin, Greg Rohan, plays for Kent State.

"We played against each other in high school," Eddie said. "We're 10 minutes away, so we're pretty close. He was excited to come down here and play a little bit."

Greg got his first action of the season after a nasty injury in the preseason. He dove for a ground ball and the impact broke his belt buckle, sending the connecting part of the buckle into his stomach.

The wound got infected and Greg had to sit for a while, but he taped it up and played against the Eagles. Greg went 2-for-7 with an RBI while Eddie was 0-for-6 with an RBI after a hot start.

"He found out this weekend that it's not Ursuline (Ohio) High School anymore," Hudak said with a smile. "An 83 mile-per-hour slider ... in high school, he saw an 83 mile-per-hour fastball. It's a learning curve for him. He's going to be a great hitter for us."

Rohan's average dropped to .214 but has hit two of the team's three homers.

• IN THE ALLEYS: The Eagles worked with their outfield lineup over the weekend, starting freshman Tony Brunetti in left and moving normal left fielder Billy Froehlich to right. Tyler McBride remained in center.

The switch is mostly used to take advantage of the left handed-hitting Brunetti's bat against a right-handed pitcher. Normal right fielder Louis Ullrich, who has the other homer, usually starts against left-handed pitchers.

• GROUP 4: The Eagles' last game, a shutout of Kent State, meant every Winthrop pitcher gets to take batting practice during the next session. Hudak said when closer Josh McDonald gave up two two-out hits in the ninth, there was some concern, but the chatter returned when the last out was recorded.

"I told them, 'I got a hanging curveball in on that call,'" Hudak joked.

WINTHROP GAMEDAY

WAKE FOREST (4-4) AT WINTHROP (3-5)

• When: 6 p.m.

• Where: The Winthrop Ballpark

• Tickets: Available at the box office -- $5 adults, $3 children college-age and under

• Promotions: Children wearing a baseball jersey get in free every Friday throughout the season. Fans bringing a church bulletin get in for $1 every Sunday throughout the season. The first 100 people through the gate on Sunday throughout the season receive a coupon for a free ice cream at McDonald's. All fans can get in for $1 on Monday-Wednesday throughout the season.

• On deck: Winthrop hosts Southern Cal in the first of a three-game series at 6 p.m. on Friday.

SOPHOMORE C JOHN MURRIAN

In eight games, Murrian is hitting .259 with two doubles and two RBIs and has thrown out four runners attempting to steal.

Did you know?

Murrian is a fan of old hot rods. He used to drive a garnet 1964 Chevy C10 but gave it up because it got "eight miles to the gallon."

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