Preseason Baseball Notebook

Go C-USA! Terry Rooney
Terry Rooney

Feb. 18, 2009

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Conference USA will open its 14th season of baseball this Friday. UCF is set to begin the Terry Rooney era with its series against Virginia Commonwealth. Armed with its No. 3 national ranking, Rice heads west to face Cal Poly. East Carolina, Southern Miss and Tulane are also ranked in at least one poll and that trio will host Monmouth, Lehigh and LeMoyne, respectively, in three-game series this weekend.






Sophomore RHP Seth Maness is the preseason C-USA Pitcher of the Year and has earned preseason All-America honors.  Maness earned C-USA Freshman of the Year honors in 2008 after tying for the league lead in wins.  He was 9-2 with a 3.57 ERA and 81 strikeouts with just 20 walks in 98.1 innings pitched.  Maness was just the second freshmen in East Carolina history to win nine games….ECU returns six starters from last year’s squad including, senior OF Stephen Batts (second-team All C-USA), sophomore IF Dustin Harrington (C-USA All-Freshman Team), sophomore OF Brandon Henderson (.347, team-high 18 2B, 11 HR, 52 RBI), senior IF Drew Schieber (.319, despite missing half the season with injuries), senior DH Kyle Roller (’08 C-USA All-Tournament Team, 12 HR, 50 RBI) and senior 2B/P Ryan Wood (March 10 C-USA Hitter-of-the-Week, 13 HR, 51 RBI)….The Pirates return four players that belted at least 10 or more home runs from a year ago (Batts -10, Henderson -11, Roller -12 and Wood -13) and welcome back eight players that accounted for 65.1 percent of their home runs in 2008.



Head Coach Rayner Noble enters the 2009 season with 499 career wins at the University of Houston, making him the winningest coach in school history.  In 14 seasons at the helm of UH, the former Cougar All-American is 499-357 (.582).  Noble has guided Houston to three regular season titles, three tournament championships and eight NCAA appearances….Freshman RHP Chase Dempsay set a UH freshman record with 11 saves in 2008.  He became only the fourth player in UH history to record 10+ saves in a single season and also tied for the team lead in victories with eight, while posting a 2.53 ERA in 33 appearances.  He earned freshman All-American honors last season and has been named a preseason All-American in 2009….Veteran lefthander Wes Musick returns to lead the Cougar pitching staff.  Musick, who appears on the preseason watch list for the Brooks Wallace Award, was 8-4 last season with a 4.35 ERA and 87 strikeouts with just 41 walks.  In his first two seasons at UH, Musick has 14 victories while registering more than twice as many strikeouts (160) as walks (75)….Sophomore SS Blake Kelso is coming off an impressive debut season that saw him earn Freshman All-America honors.  He hit .288 with 15 2B and 35 RBI, while stealing 19 bases.  Defensively, Kelso’s 199 assists led Conference USA.



The Thundering Herd return 24 letterwinners this season, including seven position starters and ten pitchers….Senior OF Nate Lape has been named the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year and is listed on every preseason All-American team.  He topped the team in nearly every statistical category in 2008, including batting (.388), runs (62), hits (83), doubles (17), home runs (17) and RBI (63).  His .706 slugging percentage led Conference USA….Senior IF Adam Yeager, who batted .322 while shattering the Marshall record for single-season stolen bases with a nation-leading 47, also earned preseason all-conference accolades.  He shattered the conference’s tournament record last May with nine stolen bases, including five in one game.  Yeager enters the 2009 season needing just 14 stolen bases to become the school’s all-time leader….In addition to being named to the C-USA All-Freshman team, DH Victor Gomez earned second team All-Conference honors in 2008.  He batted .358 with nine doubles, 11 homers and 47 RBI.  Gomez tied for fifth on the school’s single-season hits list with 77, recording 24 multi-hit games and 11 multi-RBI outings….Sophomore RHP Arik Sikula set a Marshall single-season record with eight saves last season.  He added a pair of wins and struck out 36 batters in 39.1 innings pitched.



With the redesign of Nat Buring Stadium taking place, the Tigers will be faced with the challenging task of playing a combined 27 home games at three local ballparks.  Millington's USA Stadium will be Memphis' primary home, hosting 18 regular season games, including three C-USA series and three non-conference weekend series.  The Tigers will play host to Ole Miss (Apr. 1), UCF (Apr. 3-5) and Mississippi State (May 12) in five contests at AutoZone Park and Southaven's Snowden Grove Park will be home for three midweek sets….For the second time in head coach Daron Schoenrock’s five years at Memphis, the Tigers recruiting class was tabbed as one of the top classes in the nation….After being sidelined with a season-ending injury just 14 games into his collegiate career, redshirt freshman Adam McClain will return to the Tiger lineup to give it a much-needed offensive lift. McClain was hitting .311 with eight RBI and a homer before the injury….Junior 1B/OF Trey Wiedman led the team in batting (.302), hits (60), home runs (8) and RBI (39) last season….Senior RHP Matt Yokley enters the season with 14 career saves.  He needs just two more to move into the top 10 on C-USA’s all-time list.



Rice is the winningest college baseball program of the 2000’s, entering the season with a record of 451-144 (.758) since the beginning of the 2000 season….The Owls have won three straight C-USA regular season titles and have won two league tournament titles.  The Blue & Gray has also won 13 consecutive conference championships in three different leagues dating back to 1996….Junior C Diego Seastrunk was named a first team All-Conference USA selection last season after finishing second on the team in batting (.353), while topping the team in doubles (19) and RBI (61).  This season, Seastrunk is expected to move from third base to catcher, where he will help soothe the loss of all-league C Adam Zornes (.301, 10 2B, team-high 12 HR, 55 RBI)….Sophomore SS Rick Hague was named to the Brooks Wallace Award preseason watch list this spring after earning Freshman All-America honors last season.  In addition to batting .348, Hague shared the team lead in doubles (19), finished third on the squad in home runs (8) and third in RBI (54)….Junior RHP Ryan Berry ranked among the league leaders in wins (8), ERA (3.63) and strikeouts (86) last season, while holding opponents to a .259 batting average.  He earned first team All-Conference USA honors for the second straight season and was named C-USA Pitcher of the Week on April 7.  Berry has 19 wins and 211 strikeouts in his first two seasons in an Owls uniform.



Senior SS Brian Dozier started all 64 games last season and played all but two innings.  In fact, he has started 96 consecutive games and 186 out of 187 career games (missed one start in 2007 to attend a family funeral).  Dozier batted .342 last season with a team-high 17 doubles and 46 RBI, in addition to being regarded as one of the league’s best defensive players….Senior 2B James Ewing (team-best .359 average, 13 2B, 46 RBI) combines with Dozier for a strong middle infield, as both players were listed on the preseason All-Conference team….Southern Miss posted a 12-3 record last season in games that redshirt freshman RHP Todd McInnis started.  McInnis was 6-3 and struck out 75 batters in 71.1 innings pitched.  He earned a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman team and is expected to be the ace of the pitching staff this spring….The strength of Southern Miss last season was the bullpen, as the Golden Eagles were 38-1 when tied or leading after six innings.  Part of that success was due to departed All-American Closer Tyler Conn, but the rest of the bullpen remains intact, with five returning players who were a combined 18-3 last season.  Senior Wade Weathers (4-1, 3.81 ERA) was the set up man last season, while also returning are senior Jonathan Johnston (3-0, 2.47), junior JR Ballinger (4-0, 5.04), redshirt sophomore Collin Cargill (5-1, 6.50), and sophomore Seth Hester (2-1, 4.94).  Those five players worked a combined 194 innings last season.



Freshman 3B/P Rob Segedin is emerging as the latest in a long line of two-way stars at Tulane….he 2008 All-Freshman team selection led the team in batting (.322) and doubles (18) while hitting six homers and driving in 59 runs.  On the mound, Segedin had a win and five saves in 14 appearances, striking out 21 and walking only four in 19.1 innings pitched….He earned preseason All-American recognition by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and was also named to the preseason watch list for the Brooks Wallace Award.  Senior IF Seth Henry split time between second base and shortstop last season, ranking second on the team in batting at .319, while hitting 18 doubles and driving in 54 runs….He was named second team All-Conference USA….Junior LHP Matt Petiton is the top returning starter on the Green Wave pitching staff….He made 15 appearances last season (10 starts) and was 7-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 44 strikeouts with 23 walks over 69.1 innings pitched.



In just two short years under head coach Brian Shoop, UAB has turned into one of the best hitting and fielding teams in Conference USA.  The Blazers, which ranked last in the league in both categories prior to Shoop taking over in 2007, finished second in the league in both areas last season.  UAB posted a team batting average of .311, ranking behind only East Carolina, and managed a team fielding percentage of .970, ranking behind only Tulane.  The Blazers had a total of 17 games in which they scored 10 or more runs in 2008….During the summer, senior OF Brint Hardy was named the Player of the Year for the Alaska Baseball League.  In 37 games, Hardy led the league in batting average (.421), hits (59), runs (33) and stolen bases (27).  Last season, Hardy batted .338 for the Blazers while stealing a team-high 24 bases in 27 attempts….Blazer junior SS Jonathan Merritt also played with Hardy on the Athletes in Action Fire and was named to the ABL’s second team.  Merritt batted .324 for UAB last season with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 30 RBI, while stealing 15 bases….Junior 3B Luke Stewart hit 13 home runs last year, the most by a Blazer player since Daniel Hill hit 14 in 2004.  He batted .301 with 12 doubles and 54 RBI….Sophomore 2B Nick Crawford set new school and conference records with 21 sacrifice bunts last season. 



Terry Rooney takes over in 2009 as the fifth head coach in UCF history.  Rooney has 12 years of experience as an assistant coach at the Division I level, highlighted by two campaigns at LSU from 2007-08.  Serving as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator under head coach Paul Mainieri, Rooney and the Tigers made a remarkable run to the College World Series in 2008.  Rooney's 2008 LSU pitching staff was among the best in the country as well. The Tigers walked just 201 batters while striking out 554, and they combined to post a team ERA of 4.11. They finished in the top 25 in the country in ERA and least amount of walks per nine innings (2.89)….Senior Kiko Vazquez returns at first base after missing all but 18 games of last season with an injury.  In 2007, he was named first team All-Conference USA after leading the team in nearly every offensive category….UCF’s one returning outfielder starter, left fielder Colin Arnold will actually move over to right field this season.  A senior for 2009, Arnold collected a .325 average with 14 stolen bases en route to earning a spot on the All-C-USA Second Team in 2008….Senior RHP Kyle Sweat set personal-highs with 56 strikeouts and five victories during his junior campaign in 2008.  He had a 5-5 record in 13 starts, posting a 5.43 ERA in 71.1 innings on the hill.  In addition to fanning 56 batters, Sweat walked just 18.




Here’s a look at the Conference USA players that have received preseason All-American recognition:



First Team

OF           Nate Lape, Marshall

Third Team

C              Diego Seastrunk, Rice

SP           Seth Maness, East Carolina

RP           Chase Dempsay, Houston




Second Team

OF           Nate Lape, Marshall

Third Team

SP           Seth Maness, East Carolina

RP           Chase Dempsay, Houston



Second Team

OF           Nate Lape, Marshall

SP           Seth Maness, East Carolina

Third Team

UT            Rob Segedin, Tulane

SP           Ryan Berry, Rice

RP           Chase Dempsay, Houston



First Team

DH           Nate Lape, Marshall



First Team

SP           Seth Maness, East Carolina



SP           Seth Maness, East Carolina

RP           Chase Dempsay, Houston

OF           Nate Lape, Marshall

SP           Ryan Berry, Rice

SS           Rick Hague, Rice

SP           Mike Ojala, Rice

C/3B        Diego Seastrunk, Rice

SS           Brian Dozier, Southern Miss

2B            James Ewing, Southern Miss

UT            Rob Segedin, Tulane

IF             Seth Henry, Tulane



RP           Chase Dempsay, Houston

RP           Matt Evers, Rice



OF           Nate Lape, Marshall

C/3B        Diego Seastrunk, Rice




Coming off a third consecutive trip to the College World Series, Rice has been selected as the preseason favorite in the 2009 C-USA baseball poll, chosen by the league’s nine head coaches.  The Owls have three representatives on the preseason All-Conference team as the Blue & Gray seek their fourth C-USA regular season title in a row.


Rice is ranked as high as No. 3 in the preseason national rankings as the Owls look for a 14th consecutive conference title.  The Owls return 16 lettermen, six position starters and eight experienced pitchers from last year’s 47-15 club.  Junior RHP Ryan Berry (8-5, 3.63 ERA, 86 K’s, 31 BB) leads the Rice pitching staff and he also earned preseason All-America recognition in addition to his preseason all-league honor.  Junior Diego Seastrunk (team-leading .353, 19 2B, 6 HR, team-best 61 RBI) was listed as the preseason all-conference catcher as he prepares to move there from the infield this spring, while sophomore SS Rick Hague (.348, 19 2B, 8 HR, 54 RBI) looks to build on a freshman All-American season. 


After making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years last season and finishing with a 42-21 overall record, East Carolina was chosen to finish in second place this spring.  The Pirates welcome back 22 letterwinners, including pre-season All-American and preseason C-USA Pitcher of the Year Seth Maness, along with preseason All-Conference USA OF Stephen Batts,.  Maness earned C-USA Freshman of the Year honors in 008 after tying for the league lead in wins.  He was 9-2 with a 3.57 ERA and 81 strikeouts with just 20 walks in 98.1 innings pitched.  Maness was just the second freshmen in East Carolina history to win nine games.  Batts hit .333 with 13 doubles, 10 home runs and 45 RBI, while successfully stealing 14-of-16 bases.


Southern Miss, which is coming off a sixth consecutive NCAA appearance and welcomes back 16 letterwinners and six starters, was picked to finish third according to the league’s coaches.  Two Golden Eagle infielders, senior shortstop Brian Dozier, who batted .342 with a team-high 17 doubles and 46 RBI, in addition to being regarded as one of the league’s best defensive players, and senior 2B James Ewing (team-best .359 average, 13 2B, 46 RBI) combine for a strong middle infield, as both players were listed on the preseason All-Conference team. 


Tulane, which returned to NCAA play for the 10th time in 11 years last season, was chosen fourth, just ahead of Houston.  The Green Wave is represented on the preseason team by senior infielder Seth Henry (.319, 18 2B, 7 HR, 54 RBI, 13 SB) and sophomore utility man Rob Segedin (team-high .32, 18 2B, 6 HR, 59 RBI, along with five saves in 14 appearances).  The Cougars produced a pair of preseason pitchers in starter Wes Musick (8-4, 4.35 ERA, 87 Ks) and reliever Chase Dempsay (8-3, 2.53 ERA, 11 saves).


Preseason Player of the Year honors were given to Marshall senior OF Nate Lape, who helped lead the Thundering Herd to its highest win total (30) as a Division I member last season.  Lape has been named to several preseason All-America lists after topping the team in nearly every statistical category in 2008, including batting (.388), runs (62), hits (83), doubles (17), home runs (17) and RBI (63).  His .706 slugging percentage led Conference USA. 


Lape’s teammate, IF Adam Yeager, who batted .322 while shattering the Marshall record for single-season stolen bases with 47, also earned preseason all-conference accolades.  Rounding out the league’s preseason All-Conference selections was UAB senior OF Brint Hardy.  He was second on the Blazers in batting last year at .338, while posting an on-base percentage of .414 and stealing a team-high 24 bases.



Rank    School (First Place Votes)            Pts.

1.             Rice (9)                                    81

2.             East Carolina                           67

3.             Southern Miss                          62

4.             Tulane                                     55

5.             Houston                                   49



Nate Lape, Marshall (Senior, Outfielder)



Seth Maness, East Carolina (Sophomore, Righthander)



P              Ryan Berry                       Jr.                Rice

P              Seth Maness                    So.               East Carolina

P              Wes Musick                      Jr.                Houston

RP           Chase Dempsay               So.               Houston

C              Diego Seastrunk              Jr.                Rice

IF             Brian Dozier                     Jr.                Southern Miss

IF             James Ewing                    Sr.                Southern Miss

IF             Rick Hague                      So.               Rice

IF             Seth Henry                       Sr.                Tulane

IF             Adam Yeager                   Sr.                Marshall

OF           Stephen Batts                  Jr.                East Carolina

OF           Brint Hardy                       Jr.                UAB

OF           Nate Lape                        Sr.                Marshall

DH/UT      Rob Segedin                    So.               Tulane





Category                 Player, Team (2008 C-USA Rank)

Batting.................... Nate Lape, MAR (2)                         .388

Slugging Pct........... Nate Lape, MAR (1)                         .706

On-Base Pct........... Nick Crawford, UAB (3)                     .468

Runs Scored........... Ryan Wood, ECU (3)                        70

Hits......................... Brian Dozier, USM (2)                       92

Doubles.................. Rick Hague, RICE (4)                       19

............................... Diego Seastrunk, RICE (4)               19

Triples..................... Adam Yeager, MAR (2)                    5

Home Runs............. Nate Lape, MAR (2)                         17

RBI......................... Nate Lape, MAR (4)                         63

Total Bases............. Nate Lape, MAR (3)                         151

Walks...................... Stephen Batts, ECU (4)                    48

Hit by Pitch.............. Shane Brown, UCF (3)                     14

Stolen Bases.......... Adam Yeager, MAR (1)                    47

ERA........................ Matt Petiton, TLN (3)                        2.73

Innings Pitched....... Ryan Berry, RICE (1)                        104.1

Strikeouts................ Wes Musick, HOU (2)                        87

Wins........................ Seth Maness, ECU (2)                      9

Saves..................... Chase Dempsay, HOU (1)                11

Appearances.......... Chase Dempsay, HOU (2)                33

Starts...................... Ryan Berry, RICE (1)                        16





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