Berry Opens Baseball Season Saturday
It might come a day later than expected, but opening day of the 2011 season of Berry College baseball is just about here. The Vikings open the year Saturday, when they play Rhodes College in Jackson, Miss.
Berry was originally scheduled to face Millsaps College Friday, but the poor weather conditions in Jackson forced that game to be cancelled.
Saturday's game against Rhodes will be played at 1 p.m. (CST) on the Millsaps campus. Sunday, Berry will play University of the Ozarks at noon (CST) at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson, the former home of the Houston Astros' Class AA Texas League franchise.
Despite the cold, head coach David Beasley's Berry squad is ready to get the season underway after spending the fall and the first month of the spring semester practicing and competing in intrasquad scrimmages.
Berry will play its first eight games on the road before lifting the lid on the home portion of the schedule Feb. 18, when it welcomes Virginia-Wise to William R. Bowdoin Field. Twenty-three of Berry's 39 scheduled games are against NCAA Division III opponents. The Vikings are in the second year of a four-year transitional period into Division III.
One of those opponents, Birmingham-Southern, is ranked in the top 10 of Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Division III preseason top 10, while 2011 opponents Rhodes, North Park and Methodist all received votes in either the Collegiate Baseball or the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association/D3Baseball.com preseason poll.
Starting pitching usually dictates much of a team's level of success over the course of the season. Three of Berry's top starting pitchers from last year return in righthanders Casey Gray and Trent Hillis and lefty Scott Pollock. Gray led the staff with 52 innings of work a year ago, putting together a 5-3 record and a 3.46 earned run average. He was second on the team with 39 strikeouts and held opponents to a .249 batting average.
Hillis was 4-2 with a 4.56 ERA, logging 49 1/3 innings over 13 appearances. His 11 starting assignments were the most on the team, and he fanned 36 batters while walking 21.
Nine of Pollock's 14 appearances came in a starting role, but he did also manage a save to go with his 4-4 record and 7.66 ERA. He struck out a team-high 47 batters in 2010, while walking just 17.
Berry's bullpen loses its top reliever from a year ago in Matthew McCalley, who appeared in 19 games and put together a 7-3 record with two saves and a 2.42 ERA. Still, the relief corps' cupboard is hardly bare.
Righthander Joshua Dilbeck made 10 appearances, nine in relief, as a freshman last year. He was 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA and a save, while striking out 12 batters and walking just one in 14 2/3 innigs. Other bullpen holdovers from a year ago include fello righthanders TJ Page, Thomas Johnson, Elliott Alexander, Jonathan Stump and Aaron Epp, as well as southpaw Cameron Rich.
Johnson also plays first base, while Stump and Rich may also see time in the outfield.
Coats' brother, Tyler, was a first baseman for Beasley's Vikings from 2001-04 who earned All-American honors with his bat and All-American scholar-athlete honors in the classroom.
Mirtsching played for former Texas All-American and big league pitcher Calvin Schiraldi at St. Michael's Catholic Academy in Austin, Texas.
Pitts led Berry with 24 stolen bases on 25 attempts, and finished third among regular players with at least 100 at-bats with a .389 batting average. Eleven of Pitts' 42 hits went for extra bases (eight doubles, two triples and a home run), and his .507 on-base percentage was tops among regular players a year ago.
Blackburn started in 28 of the 36 games in which he played in 2010, hitting .322 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in.
Of the other returning position players, catcher/infielder Madison Moss earned the most playing time last season, starting in 12 of the 24 games in which he played and hitting .238 in 42 at-bats. Outfielders Brandyn Jackson and Trey Kilgore also return, along with infielders Michael Frazier, Isaac Hardee and Bryn Cloer.
Outfielder Dylan Hanks; infielders Preston Neely, Austin Neely, Ryan Penge and Drew McDuffie; outfielder/infielder TC Boyd; catcher Brett Hardy and catcher/infielder Zach Farmer will all compete for at-bats in their freshman year.
Beasley is back for his 14th season as the team's skipper. The winningest coach in Berry baseball history, he enters the 2011 season with a 427-275-1 career record. He is assisted by former Berry infielder Shane West and Cliff Flagello, a former Baltimore Orioles farmhand who serves as Berry's pitching coach.
- BerryVikings.com -