VMI Baseball: 2019 Season Preview

vmi baseballThere will be many new faces in the lineup for the VMI baseball team this spring following a successful 2018 campaign.

Opportunities for young Keydets to earn playing time and starting positions have opened up as four members of a squad that finished fourth in the Southern Conference were drafted or signed by MLB organizations this summer.

VMI opens the season this weekend at UNC-Wilmington with four games potentially on the docket, weather permitting.

“This is an exciting time for us,” said fifth-year head coach Jonathan Hadra ‘04. “We were an older team last year, and now we have the opportunity to see who will step up. I like the depth of our pitching staff and I think we can be a quality defensive team. If you can pitch and play defense you have a shot to win. Thus far, the young guys have worked very hard and the upper-class leadership has been really good.”

Infield

Senior first-baseman Jake Huggins should bat in the middle of the order after earning second-team All-Southern Conference honors a season ago. He hit .280 with 15 extra-base hits, 27 runs scored and 31 RBI.  SophomoreCallen Nuccio will get the nod to start at second base after posting a .313 average in 20 starts a season ago. He will hit at the top of the order after posting an on-base percentage of .397 in 2018. Junior Michael Diodato will man the shortstop position, while red-shirt sophomore Josh Hollifield will get the opportunity to start the season at third base. Diodato is the team’s most consistent defender while Hollifield is also very good with his glove.

Senior Ryan Smoot should handle the majority of the catching duties and manage a young pitching staff, while sophomore Cody Warner and red-shirt junior Matt Keane should see time behind the plate as well.

Freshman Reeves Whitmore can backup both corner infield spots and second base, while sophomore Noah Cook can play up the middle.

Outfield

A handful of Keydets will get the opportunity to earn playing time in the outfield. Warner, Will Knight (R-Fr.), Ryan Hatten (Jr.), Jordan Ebersole (Jr.) and Don Goodes (Fr.) all will get extended looks the first few games of the season, and sophomore Nathan Loyd should start at DH and can also play the outfield.

Pitching

Junior righty Zak Kent returns and will be a big part of the VMI starting staff. He started 14 games last season, posting a 5-5 record with 81 strikeouts in 75 innings. He tied for the team lead in wins and was second in strikeouts and innings pitched. Junior right-hander Jacob Menders, a transfer from Chatahoochee Valley Community College, will join Kent in the starting rotation. Freshmen Zach Sanders (R) and Adam Jewell (R), and junior Jon Clines (L) will also have the opportunity to start on the mound this spring.

“We have a very young starting staff, but it has the potential to be very deep,” said Hadra. “There are a number of guys that we feel confident in that can start games and give us at least five or six innings.”

Junior Derek Tremblay and red-shirt junior Corey Johnston should help anchor the bullpen and will be trusted in late-game situations. Freshman left-hander Will Lopez and sophomore right-hander Sam Ewald have earned the chance to contribute in relief. Freshman Nathan Light could be used as a starter or reliever and Keane will get a chance to pitch as well.

VMI opens conference play in late March, traveling to The Citadel for a three-game weekend series. “The Southern Conference is a heck of a league,” said Hadra. “This league is tough top to bottom.”

The Keydets are scheduled to play four games this weekend in Wilmington, Friday vs. St. Joe’s (noon), Saturday against the host school (noon) and Sunday against St. Joe’s (10 a.m.) and UNCW (1:30 p.m.). Live stats are available for all four games and the contests against UNCW will be live streamed.

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