Jones ready for role
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on January 30, 2009 1:46 PM
On paper, the pitching staff at Mount Olive College lost their three biggest guns to the Major League Draft following last season's Division II World Series title.
On the practice field, however, pitching coach Aaron Akin sees vast potential for his rotation in 2009. The door is open for new blood to command the mound.
"We have between 12 and 15 guys that can throw," said Akin prior to a recent practice. "We have some good guys coming back from last year's team, but we also have some new guys that are going to contribute."
Junior Kyle Jones, a transfer from East Carolina, is projected to fill one of the weekend starter spots. The tall right-hander logged a 4-0 record in 2008, and emerged as one of the team's clutch performers in the South Atlantic Regional and the World Series.
Jones compiled a 1.30 earned run average in 34 innings of work.
"Kyle is a guy that came in and showed what he is capable off," said Akin. "The biggest adjustment he is going to have to make this year is going from being a situational starter to being a weekend guy. He certainly has the 'stuff' to do it."
Jones' cool demeanor should help. He isn't concerned how Akin and coach Carl Lancaster use him into the rotation.
"To me it's all about making one pitch at a time, no matter if it's the seventh inning or the first inning," said Jones. "This year it looks like I will be taking the ball in the first inning, so I will have to be ready."
The Trojans will also rely on senior Pat Ball.
The New Bern native contributed 21 innings in 16 appearances last season out of the bullpen. Ball finished 3-1 overall and tallied a 3.00 ERA.
Used primarily as a short reliever in 2008, Ball will be making the jump to the starting rotation under Akin's watchful eye.
"Pat has top-tier ability, his biggest thing to learn will be the mental approach," said Akin. "There are a lot of things you can do if you know it's a one-inning stint. It's different if you are trying to go six or seven innings."
Ball is learning through experience in practice.
"I have been trying to keep myself from burning out early," he said. "The funny thing is, I have been holding back a little too much ... I need to get the feel and gage how to use my energy."
Along with Jones and Ball, relievers Paul Novicki and Craig Beasley are known commodities for the Trojan coach
The mystery of a new season will be seen in the additions to the Trojan roster. Former University of North Carolina pitcher B.J. Dail offers a wealth of talent and experience at the highest level. Akin expects Dail to compete for a starting job.
Several incoming freshmen such as Brant Askew, Jordan Corbett, North Lenoir product Carter Capps and Princeton's Chris Hinton will be evaluated and used based on game situations.
"We have a lot of depth, which is nice, and in turn that gives our team a lot of flexibility," said Akin. "There will be times when we don't have to go as far with a starter, because we have plenty of fresh guys in the bullpen."
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