Strong group returning to diamond for Golden Eagles
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 00:01
The 2013 Southern Miss baseball team is preseason ranked No. 23 in the country by Baseball America, one spot ahead of last year’s National Champions, the Arizona Wildcats, and rightly so.
The Golden Eagles return seven starters and the entire weekend starting rotation from last year’s squad, who finished 32-24 and just short of an NCAA Regional trip.
The ace of the pitching staff last year, Andrew Pierce, has already earned Third Team All-American honors this preseason.
Pierce, a senior right-hander, finished last season with the team lead in wins (7), earned run average (1.99), innings (99) and strikeouts (96). Red shirt sophomore Jake Drehoff went 6-2 on the mound last season in 15 starts and returns this year as the Saturday starter. Bradley Roney, a Second Team Freshman All American last season, will be back to close out games after posting 11 saves in 20 appearances last season with a 2.42 ERA.
Incoming junior college transfers Conor Fisk and Daniel Wineski both figure to eat up innings this year after strong showings in the fall. Fisk is battling for the Sunday spot in the rotation, and Wineski is expected to be the set up man to Roney in the bullpen with his hard-sinking fastball.
In the field, Southern Miss returns senior cleanup hitter and first baseman Blake Brown, who led the team in home runs last season with six, and runs batted in with 41. Sophomore Mason Robbins, who boasted a .330 batting average last season, will return in the three-hole after leading the team in total bases (101), slugging percentage (.470), and triples (5).
Isaac Rodriguez, Michael Sterling and Dillon Day will return up the middle to lead the Golden Eagles.
Sterling led the team with a .486 on base percentage and 11 stolen bases and got hit by an astounding 28 pitches last season. Day is the catalyst for an offense that was stagnant at times last season, and will play an important role in this year’s team if they are to make a deep postseason run. Rodriguez solidifies the right side of the infield, making only two errors all of last season, and striking out only 16 times in 175 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, both catchers return behind the plate, as senior Chase Fowler will be carrying most of the load with Austin Roussel relieving him. Fowler found his stroke in the fall and is a vocal leader on the team, while Roussel hit over .300 last season, including a .417 mark in conference play.
The Golden Eagles play four teams in the preseason Top 25, opening up with SEC foe Missouri on Feb. 15 at Pete Taylor Park.