Lancaster: Finding pitching rotation major concern in 2010
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 5, 2010 1:46 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- The key to Mount Olive's success on the baseball diamond this season may sound cliché, but it's also the truth.
The Trojans' returning pitching staff combined to work roughly 100 innings last spring, but just 20 total against Conference Carolinas opposition. During those league games, the hurlers compiled close to a 7.00 earned run average (ERA).
"Pitching is certainly a concern," said Trojans head coach Carl Lancaster. "We don't have very many innings returning. We're going to pitch by committee. I promise you the first weekend you may see 15 guys on the mound. The next weekend you might see 11.
"We don't have that one guy we've had every year or sometimes two or three that we know are our go-to guys."
Mount Olive's starting pitching rotation as well as the bullpen roles have been up for grabs throughout practice. The responsibility of grooming the Trojans' inexperienced hurlers falls on the shoulders of first-year pitching coach Matt Kruse.
"When spots are still open and guys don't feel like everything is set in stone and they're on the outside looking in, they're coming to the ballpark motivated," said Kruse. "They've been coachable, they've worked hard. I know we need to better. We're going to get better."
Picked first in the Conference Carolinas preseason poll, the Trojans have also garnered No. 30 rankings in the Collegiate Baseball and Ping! Baseball preseason lists.
Weather permitting, MOC opens its season at home Saturday with a single game against Lenoir-Rhyne. First pitch is at 3 p.m. at Scarborough Field. The teams will play a doubleheader Sunday.
The Trojans will have the opportunity to generate some early momentum with 36 of its first 39 games at home. They don't play their first road game until Feb. 23 at South Atlantic Conference power Wingate.
"This team needs to get out to a good start," said Lancaster. "They need some confidence because we just can't go out and roll over people like we have in certain years. You're always more comfortable playing on your home field. I hope it's an advantage to us."
Aside from question marks in its pitching staff, Mount Olive also has holes to fill defensively. The Trojans return just three position players -- left fielder and preseason All-American candidate Jesse Lancaster, first baseman Airlon Vinson and infielder Dylan Holton.
Dan Hayduk, a two-time All-American transfer from Burlington (N.J.) Community College, is expected to start at shortstop. Ryan Faison, a transfer from Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College, could replace Holton at second base. Holton may move to the hot corner.
Daniel Coffee, a Louisburg College product, is also projected to see playing time in the infield. Michael Knox, a University of North Carolina transfer, should see time at designated hitter and first base.
Jeremy Nowak, a Stony Brook (N.Y.) University product, and Bobby Leeper, a UNC Wilmington transfer will roam the outfield along with Lancaster.