Winthrop will try to reach the NCAA baseball postseason for the first time since 2006 this week in Lexington, S.C., the site of the Big South Conference tournament.
The Eagles (31-22, 17-7 Big South) are seeded No. 1 after winning the regular season title over the weekend. Get caught up on the state of Big South, and Winthrop, baseball headed into the tournament that begins Tuesday morning:
Best form entering the tournament: Winthrop has won 10 of its last 15, but none of the eight teams are on a serious hot streak headed into this week.
Worst form entering the tournament: Gardner-Webb is 2-7 thus far in May, including a 27-10 loss to Furman earlier in the month. Longwood and Charleston Southern, which dropped 10 of its final 11 games in the regular season, missed out on the Big South tournament.
Which team is the favorite? Winthrop won the regular season and the top seed, but the tournament is pretty wide open. Defending champ Coastal Carolina - winners of seven of the last 10 Big South tournaments and the 2016 national champions - left for the Sun Belt Conference so there is no dominant team. Winthrop led the league in batting average (.287 in 24 conference games) and has solid pitching (league-best 2.80 ERA in Big South play) and is thus likely the team to beat. Watch out for Liberty and High Point, too.
Sizzling bats: Winthrop has a pair of hitters, redshirt senior Anthony Paulsen and junior Mitch Spires, that produced consistently in the second half of the regular season. The duo finished Nos. 3 and 4 in the conference in batting average. Paulsen (.347) has reached base in 34 consecutive games, while Spires (.343) has a team-high 23 multiple-hit games. They man the Winthrop batting order’s third and fourth spots, followed by No. 5 hitter Hunter Lipscomb, who has a team-high 48 RBI.
Ace in the deck: Winthrop’s Nate Pawelczyk has been immense for the Eagles, especially considering pro prospect Matt Crohan still hasn’t returned from last year’s surgery. Pawelczyk is 7-2 with a 2.30 ERA and is allowing just over six hits per nine innings, top-25 nationally. Two others that have been sharp: Winthrop freshman Colton Rendon and Radford junior Zack Ridgely, who are both in the top-10 nationally in fewest walks allowed. Rendon is one of two freshmen in the top-50 of that stat.
Pitch around... Gardner-Webb duo Danny Sullivan and Chandler Redmond have combined for 31 home runs this spring. Liberty sophomore outfielder D.J. Artis is second in NCAA Division I baseball in on-base percentage (.531).
Locals playing this week: Liberty’s Sammy Taormina (Northwestern) had a strong regular season at the plate, hitting 10 home runs and knocking in a conference-best 54 runs, while finishing in the league’s top-10 in nearly every batting category. Brandon Fite (Nation Ford) has started all 53 games at second base for Winthrop with only 10 errors in 142 chances (nearly a 96 fielding percentage).
Duck! UNC Asheville freshman pitcher Brandon Harris is sixth nationally with 17 hit batters in 18 appearances on the mound. Campbell junior outfielder Cole Hallum ranks sixth in NCAA Division for getting hit by pitches (22 in 54 games). Campbell leads the country in cumulative HBPs, with 111.
Tuesday, May 23
G1: No. 2 Liberty vs. No. 7 Gardner-Webb, 9:30 a.m.
G2: No. 3 Presbyterian vs. No. 6 UNC Asheville, 45 minutes following previous game
G3: No. 1 Winthrop vs. No. 8 Campbell, 4:30 p.m.
G4: No. 4 High Point vs. No. 5 Radford, 45 minutes following previous game
Wednesday, May 24
G5: Loser of G1 vs. Loser of G2, 9:30 a.m.
G6: Loser of G3 vs. Loser of G4, 45 minutes following previous game
G7: Winner of G1 vs. Winner of G2, 4:30 p.m.
G8: Winner of G3 vs. Winner of G4, 45 minutes following previous game
Thursday, May 25
G9: Loser G7 vs. Winner G5, 3 p.m.
G10: Loser G8 vs. Winner G6, 45 minutes following previous game
Friday, May 26
G11: Winner G8 vs. Winner G9, 10 a.m.
G12: Winner G7 vs. Winner G10, 45 minutes following previous game
Game 13: if necessary - Winner G11 vs. Loser G11, 5 p.m. (7 innings)
Game 14: if necessary - Winner G12 vs. Loser G12, 45 minutes following Game 13 (7 innings)
Saturday, May 27
Winner G11 (or G13) vs. Winner G12 (or G14), 3 p.m.
Winthrop baseball garners 7 Big South honors, including Freshman and Coach of the Year
Colten Rendon was named the Big South Conference Freshman of the Year and Tom Riginos was tabbed the Coach of the Year as Winthrop baseball earned seven honors when the Big South Conference announced its annual awards Monday evening.
The Eagles had four players earn all-conference honors as senior Anthony Paulsen, Mitch Spires, Nate Pawelczyk and Colten Rendon all earned All-Big South First Team honors.
Paulsen leads the Eagles in batting average, doubles, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage while his .347 average is third in the Big South. He ranks in the Top 10 of seven offensive categories in the league. It is Paulsen’s third All-Big South honor as he’s now been named to the first team twice.
Spires leads the Eagles in runs scored and at-bats. He finished second on the team in doubles, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. Spires, who tied Paulsen for the team lead in hits also finished in the Top 10 in runs scored for the league. This is Spires first time being named all-conference.
Pawelczyk leads the Eagles in wins, ERA, opponents' batting average, least amount of runs allowed, and fewest earned runs allowed. He was first in wins, ERA, and opponents' batting average in the Big South. He ranks in the Top 10 of 10 pitching categories in the league. It’s the first All-Big South selection for Pawelczyk.
Rendon leads the Eagles in wins, walks, and second on the team in ERA, innings pitched and opponents' batting average. He ranks in the Top 10 of 10 pitching categories in the league. Rendon is the first Eagle to win Freshman of the Year since Alex Wilson in 2006.
Riginos was named Coach of the Year for the first time in his stint with the Eagles and the first since Joe Hudak in 2001. Riginos led the Eagles to a 31-22 overall record, 15-7 at home, 15-12 on the road, and 17-7 in the conference. The 31 wins are the second most during his time at Winthrop. The 17 league wins are the most by the Eagles since 2009 when they were 18-9.
Sophomore Hunter Lipscomb was named to the Big South All-Academic Team.