Winthrop baseball has wrapped up the 20-game fall season, leaving coach Joe Hudak "cautiously optimistic."
The hitting should be great. Eight starters are back from last year. Five players are locks to play everyday. Two, catcher John Murrian and shortstop Kevin Nolan, could be major league draft picks come June.
Murrian and Nolan further solidified their pro value this fall. Murrian hit .421, pounded seven homers and drove in 32 runs. Nolan hit .432 with six home runs and 26 RBIs.
The pitching will be "interesting," according to Hudak. The Eagles lost three weekend starters and a closer from last year. Gone are Ryan Mullins, Ryan Schwartz and Hamilton Bennett, who combined to start 39 games a year ago. Josh McDonald led the team with seven saves last year.
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The 2009 Eagles staff will by "young and untested, but talented," Hudak said.
What he has learned from the fall season is he will not have a dominant starter, rather a mix of pitchers capable of starting big weekend games.
Matteo D'Angelo threw well last year with 41 strikeouts in 37-plus innings. He continued to do so in fall ball. The sophomore from Bologna, Italy, throws strikes. He allowed six walks and struck out 24 in 27.1 innings in seven fall outings.
Dom Patterozzi is also a sophomore. Hudak said he was the most consistent starter this fall. He posted a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings.
Cam Walters is a dual player who pitches and plays the outfield. He is a product of Northwestern. He threw more than 25 innings this fall. Hudak said he has always had good stiff on the mound.
"He has a curve and a changeup. Control has been his problem," said Hudak.
Those three could be the weekend guys, but Hudak has four others vying for the role in junior Tyler McBride, sophomores Robert Lake and Wade Newman and freshman Kenny Monteith.
In the bullpen, Dane Yoder had his best fall yet. He yielded 12 hits in 17 innings. In 11 appearances, he posted a 2.65 ERA. A pair of submarine arms in Tyler Fries and Casey Bradwell should see a lot of time on the mound come spring.
The closer appears to be freshman Tyler Mizenko. Mizenko is from Wallingford, Conn., throws sidearm and loves to close out games.
"It's rare to have a freshman be comfortable as a closer. He has the stuff and has shown he has the mentality," said Hudak. "He doesn't have any fear. He wants the ball late, with the game on the line."
Mizenko throws 88 to 91 mph. He learned quickly that he won't be able to throw his fastball high in the zone and get it past college hitters. Hudak said he got hammered his first two outings. He finished the fall with 12 appearances and struck out 14 batters in 15 innings.
"I expect we'll compete on the mound," Hudak said. "Other clubs are looking at us and have to be saying, 'My gosh, they don't have any pitchers back.'"
Of the returning pitchers, only Newman had more than two starts last year.
The team will continue to work in the weight room until Feb. 1, when full practices can resume.
"This is the time when some pitchers make good progress," Hudak said.