Wolves set for 2015 season

Wolves set for 2015 season
Thursday, January 29, 2015 | by Chas Goodwin, Athletic Communications Assistant

NEWBERRY – The Newberry College Wolves baseball team is set to begin the 2015 season this weekend with a two game series versus the GRU Augusta Jaguars. The Wolves are coming off a 30-win season in 2014, the college’s first 30-win season since 1999, the only year Newberry claimed a South Atlantic Conference tournament title. Newberry is looking to build on last year’s successes to go into a 2015 season which could shape into one of the best in Newberry history.

Head coach Russell Triplett enters his fifth season at the helm for the Wolves. He has compiled a 103-104 overall record but in the past two seasons Newberry has gone 59-45, their first two winning seasons since 1999 and first back-to-back winning seasons in over two decades. Triplett has guided the Wolves to four straight South Atlantic Conference Tournament appearances and a 56-53 record in conference play. Last season Newberry went 17-13 in league play, the highest number of wins in recent history and the highest conference winning percentage the college has seen since 1999.

In his time at Newberry, Triplett has coached 14 all-conference players, including Miami Marlins draft pick Ryan Cranmer who became the first Newberry baseball player ever to receive first team all-conference honors twice in a career (2013-14). Four players have won Gold Glove awards and two players, Cranmer and pitcher Josh McElwee, have been taken in the Major League Baseball Draft, McElwee in 2012 and Cranmer in 2014.

He has had seven all-region honorees from the American Baseball Coaches Assoication (ABCA) and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) to go along with three Academic All-Region selections and Newberry’s first ever baseball Academic All-American.

In the past two seasons the Wolves have been tops in the South Atlantic Conference in hitting, leading the league with a .315 batting average in 2013 and finishing third in 2014 with  a .304 average, just one point behind second place Catawba and four behind leader Lincoln Memorial. In 2013, Newberry led the conference in hits (554) and finished second in on-base percentage (.392) and slugging percentage (.446). The Wolves finished second in hits last season (526), tied for second in stolen bases (73) and their .380 on-base percentage was good enough for third.

The Wolves will look to replace some key pieces of the puzzle in 2015 with the departure of Cranmer and eight other seniors. However, the Wolves return 25 players from last year’s roster, 17 of which were letter winners. They will rely heavily on the senior class for leadership, Triplett’s first recruiting class and a senior group that has amassed 80 wins in their three years in Newberry uniforms, the most wins by a class entering their senior season in over two decades.

This year’s team is very deep in the senior and freshman classes. The senior and freshman groups account for 26 of Newberry’s 42 players on the roster. Five juniors and 11 sophomores complete the Wolves for the 2015 season. The younger players will look to seasoned veterans Albert Baur, Wesley Camp, Brandan Sheridan, Alex Kirby, Cole Cromer, D.J. Martinez, Alex Robert, Jon Rosenberger, Matt Chapman, and Causey Stanland for leadership this coming year.

Reshirt sophomre Jeff Sneed has risen to the top of impressive stock of catchers. The Cumming, Ga., native enters his first season with the Wolves after playing two years at Louisburg Junior College. At Louisburg he was hurt for the 2014 season, but in 2013 he posted a .225 batting average and a .353 on-base percentage in 38 games. Highly touted freshmen Tommy Passerello and Ben Herring will battle it out for time behind Sneed. Passerello, a Davenport, Fla., resident, was an All-County Honorable mention selection in 2013. Herring, a Hopkins, S.C., native was an All-State selection and participated in the North/South Select games. Reshirt sophomore Trey Scott (Spring Hill, Fla.), freshman Sam Jones (Greer, S.C.) and sophomore Cal Lever (Newberry, S.C.) could also see time throughout the course of the season.

The infield will see two mainstays from the past three years. Redshirt senior Albert Baur has been the backbone of the Newberry lineup for the past three seasons and has played his way into the Wolves record books. The Philadelphia, Pa., native currently owns the records for doubles, runs batted in, total bases and defensive chances. This season he is chasing the records for most games played (5th), games started (3rd), at-bats (3rd) and putouts (2nd). He has the list of accolades to go along with the records, as he was chosen as a preseason All-SAC selection for the second time after hitting .332 with 17 doubles and 46 runs batted in 2014. Baur will likely play first base, but could also see action at third.

Another familiar face will be Brandan Sheridan, a senior from Jacksonville, Fla. Sheridan has been in the lineup from his time stepping on campus as a true freshman. He has seen action in 137 games in a Wolves uniform and will likely be the opening day starter at third base. Last season he hit .221 but carried a .317 on-base percentage and drove in 19 runs. D.J. Martinez came to Newberry in 2013 after spending two years at Pitt Community College and was impressive for the Wolves last season. The Montpelier, Va., native will spend most of his time at shortstop, but with his athleticism, could be seen all around the infield. In 2014 he hit .276 in 98 at bats with a .321 on-base percentage. Sophomore Robert Kosch is small in stature, but amazed spectators and the opposition with his solid glove work and ability to get on base as he batted .277 and carried a .460 on-base percentage in 2014. The Clemson, S.C., resident will likely start at second but could get some work in at shortstop over the course of the season.

There are many faces that could show up in the lineup for the Wolves as they have great depth at each position. Junior Nolan Schrenker (Valrico, Fla.) could see time at second base and likely will also rotate around in the outfield and at the designated hitter position. Senior Ty Powell (Charleston, S.C.) and sophomore Mason Corzine (Concord, N.C.) could also see reps at second base this season. Freshmen Connor Teague (Moncks Corner, S.C.) and Jontrai Jackson (Columbia, S.C.) will battle for playing time behind Kosch and Martinez at shortstop while fellow freshmen Jason Taylor (Woodruff, S.C.) and Zach White will battle for playing time at third behind Sheridan. White, a Taylors, S.C., native, could also see time at the designated hitter position with his left-handed swing. Redshirt sophomore Brad Nichols (Winter Springs, Fla.) and freshman Joey Ruiz (Suwanee, Ga.) will fight for time behind Baur at first base. Nichols could also see time at the designated hitter spot after missing last season with a back injury. In 2013 he posted a .377 batting average to go along with a .508 slugging percentage and a .451 on-base percentage in just 61 at bats.  

The outfield for the Wolves will be anchored down by highly touted freshman Jacob Bass. The North Augusta, S.C., native was an All-State selection in high school and is one of the fastest players to ever come through the Newberry program. The corner outfield spots could see multiple faces in senior Alex Kirby, sophomore JoJo Bradley and newcomer Michael Gonzalez. Kirby, a Chapin, S.C., native, has seen action throughout his three years in a Newberry uniform. He was recently named a preseason All-SAC pick after receiving the honorable mention nod last season after hitting .356 with 15 stolen bases in 2014. Bradley has become one of the best left-handed hitters in the conference through his freshman and sophomore seasons. He batted .331 in 2014 in 142 at bats in his first season as an everyday starter. With his bat he could possibly see time in the designated hitter role throughout the season if he is not in the outfield. Gonzalez, a junior from Wilsonville, Ore., comes to Newberry after spending two years at Clark College where he was an All-South Region and All-NWAACC selection after hitting .329 in 2014.

Senior Causey Stanland (Anderson, S.C.) will also see time in the outfield for the Wolves. In 2014 he saw mostly pinch hit opportunities, but put together a .250 batting average with 13 hits and a .333 on-base percentage. Senior Kevin Hastings (Columbia, S.C.) and freshman Joseph Chaney (Ninety Six, S.C.) will also see time in the grass for Newberry.

Designated Hitter
The DH is widely used by Triplett for many different players and that is not likely to change going into the 2015 season. It is likely to see Schrenker start off the year as the DH, as he is coming off a .327 batting average and a .403 on-base percentage in 2014. Other notable additions to the DH position could also include Bradley, Stanland and White depending on the opponent and opposing pitcher. 

The Newberry pitching staff has the potential to be the greatest asset for the Wolves in 2015. The Wolves lost just three pitchers who logged 10+ innings from the 2014 squad, one to graduation and Jake Nidiffer (Columbia, S.C.) and Will Robbins each had season ending surgery. Seniors Wesley Camp, Cole Cromer, and Jon Rosenberger will lead the staff for first year pitching coach P.J. Zocchi.

Camp is coming off a spectacular 2014 campaign, posting a 2.32 ERA with an 8-3 record. He earned second team All-SAC honors and All-Southeast Region honors by the ABCA. The Pelion, S.C., native has recently been named a first team preseason All-SAC honoree as well as being named first team preseason All-Southeast Region by the NCBWA. Camp and fellow senior Cromer will serve as the aces for the squad as Cromer is also coming off a fantastic 2014 season. The North Augusta, S.C., native logged a 5-2 record and a 2.18 ERA in 78.1 innings pitched en route to being named an honorable mention All-SAC selection. He was recently named a preseason All-SAC second team selection.

Rosenberger is looking to get back on track in 2015 after a roller coaster year in 2014. The Anderson, S.C., native, along with Camp and Cromer, are chasing the Newberry record books as each have been mainstays in the Wolves pitching rotation for the past three years. Fellow senior Matt Chapman (Summerville, S.C.) will likely be on the tail end of many games this coming season as he served as one of the Wolves two closers in 2014. Chapman posted three saves last season and compiled a 2.45 ERA.

Junior Daniel Nations will be the primary reliever out of the bullpen. The Central, S.C., native appeared in a team high 26 games and toted a 3.40 ERA with a 5-2 overall record. He amassed three saves and was awarded honorable mention All-SAC honors at the conclusion of the season. He, along with Baur, Camp, Cromer and Kirby, round out the preseason All-SAC honorees for the fourth picked Wolves.

Sophomores Mike DeLee (Dorchester, S.C.) and Austin Walker (Charleston, S.C.) both saw lots of action in their freshman year and will likely see plenty this year as well. DeLee tossed 17.2 innings and Walker 16 in double digit appears for both players. Junior Marshall Rentz (Charleston, S.C.) worked 14.2 innings in 2014 and will likely increase his load this season. Senior Cory Brown (Ocean, N.J.) will be battling Nations and Chapman for time at the tail end of games and will likely see his workload increase from a year ago.

Senior Alex Roberts had been a workhorse for the Wolves in his first two seasons before getting sidelined for the 2014 season with surgery. However, the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native returns to the squad for one more round and will likely see time in roles as both a starter and a reliever. Sophomore Davis Funderburk also returns just in time for the season after recovering from offseason surgery. The lefty from Columbia, S.C., returns and will likely get worked in slowly as a reliever but could see a dramatic increase in his workload as the season goes on.

The seasoned veterans are impressive for the Wolves, but the young guns are coming off impressive preseason campaigns themselves. Sophomore Patrick Clarey (Megget, S.C.) and freshmen Dylan Southerland (Belton, S.C.), John Mason Reynolds (Taylors, S.C.) and Robert Westenrieder (Taylors, S.C.) will all look to make immediate impacts in pressure situations this spring. Sophomore lefty Andrew Merritt (Athens, Ga.) will also look to compete for time on the bump this spring.

The Wolves will open up the season this Saturday on the road for the first time under Triplett and the first time since the 2010 season. Newberry travels to Lake Olmstead Stadium for a 2 p.m. matchup with the GRU Augusta Jaguars. The two teams will the square off again Sunday at the Smith Road Complex with a 2 p.m. first pitch.

Newberry will be off the rest of the week until South Atlantic Conference play starts on February 6when the Anderson University Trojans head to the Smith Road Complex for a three game set. Game one will take place Friday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. followed by a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.