Despite a slow start in the first four games of the season, hopes still remain high in the clubhouse of the Maryville Scots baseball team.
After winning their season-opener against Hiwassee by a score of 12-5, the Scots lost three straight against Piedmont College in their first USA South series. Piedmont won the games 11-0, 10-6, and 7-3. After starting the season 1-3, the Scots bounced back in a big way against Huntingdon College, who is currently ranked fourth in the conference, winning two of three in a series by scores of 5-2 and 7-3. While 3-4 is not an ideal start, it is still early in the season and there are some bright spots on the team that will help the Scots climb back to being .500 and beyond.
In an attempt to breathe new life into the program, the Scots hired Cody Church prior to the season. Church joined the Scots after spending two seasons at ETSU, where he coached outfielders and hitters. Although the team has come up on the losing side so far, there is still a high level of optimism among the players about the new coach.
“Coach Church has been awesome in every aspect this year,” said fifth-year senior infielder Nick Dean. “The guys have really bought in to what he has brought to this team and program, and I see nothing but success for him and this program for many years.”
Church not only brought his experience of coaching in a Division I program to Maryville; he also brought his Division I expectations. The players on the team know that no job is safe, and in order to keep a spot on the team, they will have to bring their “A” game every practice.
In order to get the players to buy in to the new philosophy, Church has had to look to leaders in the program. He looked no further than infielder Nick Dean, who in five years has established himself as a leader from the plate. Over a five year span playing for Maryville, Dean has accumulated 182 hits and 99 runs. He also has 111 RBIs and has hit seven home runs. He has been a reliable option for the team since his freshman year with a .376 total batting average. In four games this year, Dean has hit a double, which is ranked eighth in the USA South, along with four hits coming in 18 at bats. Dean also ranks in the top ten in four categories, including leading the conference in assists (23) and fielding percentage (.966). As the season progresses, look for Dean to continue adding to his stats and further solidify his role as a dominant force in all facets of the game.
Outfielder Logan Jenkins is another player doing his part to help the Scots improve. Jenkins has six hits so far on the season off of 27 at bats. Jenkins main contribution, however, comes from when he is on the bases. His four stolen bases rank first in the USA South, and he has only been caught stealing once.
While Maryville is hitting relatively well early on in the year with a total batting average of .255, they are looking to improve in that category as the year goes on. The team’s pitching staff is currently ranked eighth in the conference at a 5.52 earned run average, which is right around average in the USA South. This is not bad, but is still another area that will need to improve if the Scots want to climb in the rankings. They will also look for big hits at the plate in order to add a spark offensively. So far on the year, the team has one home run on the year from infielder Greg Vourloumis. As the year progresses, the coaching staff hopes that this will improve, which should help the team score more runs. In the three-game series against Piedmont, they were shut out once and only scored three in the final game of the series. The team will look to big hitters like Vourloumis to help the team in this aspect.
Maryville’s 2-4 conference record puts them in ninth place in the USA South, only ahead of 0-3 N.C. Wesleyan and 0-6 William Peace. However, Dean believes that the way the season has gone so far is not indicative to how the rest of the season will progress.
“I think the first three games this season were not an accurate reflection of how this season is going to go. We went back and broke down the games and there were just a few little things that could have happened that would have changed the outcome of all three games tremendously.”
After a five day break, the Scots resumed USA South Conference-play against Huntingdon in three-game series. Huntingdon is fourth in the USA South with a 4-2 record. After dropping the first game to the Hawks 9-1, Maryville then won the next two games 5-2 and 7-3. During the series, Maryville improved in almost every category. The team got 21 hits from 110 at bats, improving their hitting efficiency at the plate. They also upped their RBI percentage, hitting in ten runs in the three games. The pitching staff improved as well, pitching a 4.66 ERA over the course of the series.
The Scots will begin a three-game series against second-ranked Greensboro tonight at 7:00 PM. Games two and three of the series will be played Saturday and Sunday, each at 1:00 PM. Greensboro is 5-1 in the conference and will serve as a tough opponent for the Scots as they look to shake up the conference standings.