Tornados prepare to open 2011 season this weekend in Asheboro

Brevard ready to compete in third season in the NCAA Division II and the SAC

Brevard, N.C. - Coach Matt McCay and the Brevard College baseball team know a series of challenges awaits them as they begin the 2011 baseball season, but the team and the coaching staff look to face those challenges head-on as the Tornados begin their third season as full members of the NCAA Division II and the South Atlantic Conference.

The Tornados finished up the 2010 season with a 9-35 record, going 2-21 in South Atlantic Conference competition and finishing up 5-16 at home at Gil Coan Field. The Tornados did have several bright spots from last season, including a three game home winning streak and several series splits and will look to continue to develop on those wins as they prepare for the five game road trip that starts the 2011 year.

With the roster turnover, competition is the theme of this year’s training camp as the battle for starting positions was fierce during both the fall practices and early this spring, with many newcomers seeking to establish their places in the Brevard lineup.

On the mound, Coach McCay looks to begin the season with several talented men competing for starting spots, including senior right-hander Jacob White and sophomore righty Brennan Daniels. White and Daniels combined for 21 starts and 29 appearances on the rubber last season and return as the veteran leaders on the mound. Also projected to be in the starting rotation are Pfeiffer University transfer Casey Smith and freshman left-hander, Zack Simpson, while returners Jacob Koontz, Joseph Lepore and others may also work themselves into the rotation with quality outings at the beginning of the season.

Smith joins the Tornados after appearing in 13 games on the mound for the Falcons, throwing 16.1 innings in relief for Pfeiffer last season and is ready to make the next step in his development, while Simpson, a West Rowan High School graduate, was an All-Conference and All-County selection and was a two-time State Games participant in high school and will provide balance to the right-handed heavy Brevard pitching staff.

A trio of transfers will be setting up camp behind the plate this season to call the games for Brevard this year as junior Zack Merriken, sophomore Christopher Christopoulos and freshman James Pegram will battle for playing time. All three catchers will have a big role in the Tornados success this season and take pride in working with the pitching staff and running the team defense. Merriken comes to the Tornados from Catawba Valley Community College, where he appeared in 49 games with the Buccaneers, recording a .352 batting average while hitting six home runs. Christopoulos transferred to Brevard from St. Peter’s College in New Jersey, where he appeared in 33 games with the Peacocks, while Pegram came to Brevard from Winthrop University and was a high school standout at Waccamaw High School in Pawleys Island, S.C., where he was an All-Region performer.

Around the infield, Randy O’Dell and Alex Bedenbaugh will look at potentially sharing time at first base. O’Dell, a transfer from Lenoir Community College, recorded a .481 batting average in 25 games with the Lancers last season and is expected to provide a solid bat as well as good defense around first, while Bedenbaugh, a 2010 BC redshirt, returns to the squad and was an All-Region performer at Mid-Carolina High School.

Competition is the name of the game the rest of the way around the diamond as several players on the team showcase the athletic ability to help Brevard at multiple positions on the field and make an impact on the 2011 roster.

Juniors Kramer Clark, Steele Myers and Aaron Reese, sophomores Derek Ham and Christopoulos and freshman McKenzie Queen are all expected to have opportunities to showcase their skills in the middle infield this season, with Clark, Ham, Reese, Queen and Christopoulos all expecting to challenge for playing time at second base, while Steele and Ham will look to challenge for the starting shortstop position.

Clark returns having hit .318 in his sophomore year with the Tornados, bringing a consistent bat to the top-half of the Brevard lineup last season, finishing third on the team with 50 hits. Ham also provided a good stick for the Tornados, hitting .341 in his first year in collegiate baseball, while also flashing the leather in recording a .972 fielding percentage in 22 games’ action. Reese looks to provide leadership, as the junior is also a quarterback on the BC football team, while Queen provides a left-handed bat and was an All-Conference selection at Smoky Mountain High School.

Myers, a transfer from Division I Virginia Military Institute, appeared in 50 games over two years with the Keydets and stood out in the VMI lineup last season, hitting .288, while providing a solid glove in the field.

Third base will also receive its fair share of competition as well as sophomore Brett Brinson will be joined by Reese, Clark, Queen and Christopoulos in fighting for the starting position. Brinson played in 19 games last season for the Tornados, hitting .333 while driving in seven runs and had a .939 fielding percentage and will look to improve in all categories as he begins his second season with Brevard.

Around the outfield, athleticism and speed reign in what Coach McCay calls one of Brevard’s strongest assets this season as returners Ron Patterson and Tyler Parker will duke it out with newcomers Kameron Armacost, Ethan Pressley, Zak Beard and Champ Stuart.

Patterson started all 43 games in centerfield for the Tornados last season, and the senior finished the season as one of the Tornados top defenders, while also providing steady offense in scoring 21 runs. Parker also returns after redshirting in 2010 and has shown versatility among the outfield positions, potentially seeing time at all three this season.

Armacost transferred in from Hagerstown Community College, where the Littlestown, Pa. native appeared in 81 games for the Hawks, hitting .292, while driving in 14 runs, while Pressley comes in with impressive credentials, as the sophomore was a three-time All-WAC selection with the North Henderson High School Knigths. Freshmen Beard and Stuart will also challenge for playing time with Beard joining the Tornados from West Henderson High School, while Stuart was an All-Conference and All-State performer at Christ School.

Late in the game, Coach McCay will look to turn the ball over to the revamped Tornados bullpen, led by veterans Koontz, Lepore, Alex Litaker, Casey Burnette and Josh Case, as well as newcomers Michael Bradley, Kevin Hamilton, Will Bullock and Dustin Haithcox.

Koontz led the Tornados with 22 appearances last season, pitching 40 innings and striking out 31, while Lepore, Litaker, Burnette and Case combined for 33 appearances for Brevard, including 15 in conference play and recorded three of Brevard’s nine victories last season. White also has seen time in the bullpen and could also help the Tornados in the late innings.

Right-handers Bradley and Hamilton are both hard-throwers, with Bradley coming in having received the Brevard High School MVP honor in his junior and senior seasons, while Hamilton finished his high school career as the Northwest Cabarrus High School all-time career saves leader. Lefties Bullock and Haithcox will provide balance to the pitching staff, with Bullock having played on the MVP National team and was a participant in the Disney Classic, while Haithcox was an All-Conference and All-County selection with the Eastern Randolph High School Wildcats.

The Tornados begin the 2011 season on February 5th as they open the season on the road at McCrary Park, home of the Coastal Plain League Asheboro Copperheads, in a neutral game doubleheader against the St. Andrews Presbyterian Knights. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for 1 p.m. The Tornados will remain on the road on Sunday, February 6th, in a doubleheader against Pfeiffer University and Catawba College, played in Newman Park on the campus of Catawba College. First pitch against Pfeiffer is set for 4 p.m., while the Tornados take on SAC rival Catawba at 7 p.m.

The Tornados’ home opener is scheduled for Saturday, February 12th, against Alderson-Broaddus at Gil Coan Field. First pitch of the three-game series is set for noon.

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