Sports

Hudak says road win made for decent weekend

It was a decent weekend.

Not a great one.

"When you go on the road and win two of three, it's a great weekend," Winthrop coach Joe Hudak said at the conclusion of Sunday's 8-1 win over No. 24 Coastal Carolina. "If you go on the road and don't get swept, it's a decent weekend.

"It was big for us to win this one, especially after we lose the first two."

The Eagles (12-19, 3-3 Big South Conference) picked up an important win over the Chanticleers, avoiding a series sweep and keeping themselves a game behind Coastal in the standings. They also saw the further maturation of their starting pitching staff, which threw three great games but ended up losing two.

Still, it was encouraging. Last year, Winthrop and Coastal tangled to end the regular season and there was no chance for the loser to make up the defeats. This time, each team has five conference weekends left to play.

"We knew going into the series, it wasn't a make or break series either way," Hudak said. "We could have swept them and it wouldn't have meant the end of their season."

If preseason predictions mean anything, each team has played two of the top four teams in the Big South. Coastal, the preseason champ, took two games each from Liberty (third) and Winthrop (fourth). The Eagles twice beat VMI (second) and took one from Coastal.

Winthrop hosts Liberty on April 25-27 while Coastal travels to VMI the same weekend. After that, the conference picture should become far clearer.

"You play two good clubs on the road, the goal is 4-2," Hudak said. "You come out 3-3, that's not too bad."

• ON THEIR MINDS: The Coastal win left little time for celebration. The Eagles had just one day to savor it before a game at No. 14 Georgia tonight.

There's never a good time to be playing an SEC team, and the Bulldogs are making it worse. They went from unranked to the Top 15 in the Baseball America poll on Monday following a 5-0 week, where they beat Clemson in back-to-back midweek games and swept then-No. 9 South Carolina over the weekend.

"Hopefully we can go over and win one for the Palmetto State," Hudak joked.

Whatever happens, it will be the end of a nine-game road stretch, where the Eagles were 4-4 going into tonight. Winthrop returns to Rock Hill for 16 of the next 20 games.

"Seems like we've been living on a bus or in a hotel room," Hudak said.

• HIT PARADE: Even after a 2-for-11 weekend, sophomore shortstop Kevin Nolan continues to lead the Eagles with a .355 average. He and first baseman Eddie Tisdale (.322) are the only Eagles to start every game and are two of Winthrop's top three hitters.

Nolan has quietly put together a super offensive season, batting over .400 in the season's first three weeks and continuing his excellent defensive game. Despite looking somewhat out of place as a 6-foot-2 college shortstop, Nolan has shown no problems handling the position's demands on range and arm strength.

Senior outfielder Billy Froehlich has also turned it on, raising his average to .346 after the weekend and continuing to lead the team with five homers and 30 RBIs. He's tied for third in the Big South RBI totals with Coastal's Dock Doyle, just three behind Radford's Alex Gregory.

• COMING ALONG: Redshirt freshman Wade Newman is scheduled to start tonight's game, another step in his recovery. After two elbow surgeries knocked him out all of last year, Newman has made two appearances with a few more pitches each time this season.

Hudak said Newman is scheduled to throw around 50-55 pitches tonight, following his 15-pitch increase program. The bullpen has plenty of rested arms after Matteo D'Angelo handled most of the relief against Coastal -- the freshman threw five innings over the weekend after replacing Ryan Schwartz and Ryan Mullins, while Robert Lake pitched a frame after Hamilton Bennett left.

• IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: Freshman outfielder Bennett Jordan, a former star at York Comprehensive High School, passed the deadline for a medical redshirt and will finish the season. The shoulder that Jordan injured during fall practice hasn't bothered him and he and Hudak made the decision two weeks ago.

"Everything's good," Jordan said. "There's just no pain. Seems like it's feeling better than it ever was."

Jordan has played sparingly, logging 19 games and starting 11. He's hitting .217 with one RBI but has scored four runs.

The only problem now is avoiding an early reputation. During Sunday's game at Coastal, Jordan was wearing No. 6 instead of his usual No. 36. The Eagles apparently don't have a garnet No. 36 jersey anymore.

"I supposedly left it in Texas and this is the only other one they got," Jordan said.

WINTHROP GAMEDAY

WINTHROP (12-19) AT NO. 14 GEORGIA (20-10)

• When: 5 p.m. today

• Where: Foley Field, Athens, Ga.

• Tickets: Available at the box office

• On the Web: Live stats available at georgiadogs.com

• On deck: Winthrop plays the first of a three-game series hosting High Point at 7 p.m. on Friday.

SOPHOMORE RHP CASEY BRADWELL

Bradwell is 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in five innings. He has struck out two and given up four hits in his appearances.

Did you know?

Bradwell and a friend went crocodile hunting in Florida around two years ago. He claims to have shot "around a 6-footer" and then ate it. It tasted like chicken (naturally).

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