UE’s baseball team opens its season this weekend with a three-game set at Arkansas-Little Rock: 3 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There’s no radio for the series, but you can follow along with live stats here.
Fifth-year coach Wes Carroll gave the lowdown on his team, picked last in the Missouri Valley Conference’s preseason poll but one that returns five starters and 12 of 13 pitchers from last season’s 32-27 squad.
1. Sophomore Kevin Kaczmarski (OF): Kaczmarski, the Aces’ leader last season with a .433 slugging percentage, is a guy who could hit just as well out of the three or four spot as leadoff. “He’s a draftable type of kid this year — a real explosive, five-tool type of player,” Carroll said. “He’s going to be tough to pitch to in this league out of the leadoff spot because he’s got power as well.”
2. Junior Jake Mahon (2B): Mahon moves from third base to second this season as a junior. “A seasoned veteran who started from day one for us of his freshman year,” Carroll said. “He’s a switch hitter, so it gives us some versatility, and he’s our leading RBI guy coming back.”
3. Sophomore Kyle Pollock (DH): Back in the three hole, where he hit as a freshman, Pollack enters off a summer ball all-star season. “He’s fit right into our DH slot extremely well,” Carroll said. “Kyle may also be able to provide us some versatility as far as playing first base.”
4. Senior Jason Hockemeyer (OF): Hockemeyer moves from first base to corner outfield this season. “A junior college transfer that played a full year for us last year — hit over .300 — he’s a big RBI guy who competes with two strikes,” Carroll said.
5. Freshman Jonathan Ramon (3B): Out of New York, Ramon hit six home runs during UE’s fall ball will start from day one for the Aces. “He’s going to add some pop — explosiveness — to our lineup,” Carroll said. “He’ll have some ups and downs like any freshman, but I like where he is now.”
6. Junior John Day (1B): Day will have a regular spot in the lineup this season for the first time. He batted just .175 last season but managed a .346 on base percentage, earning nine walks in 40 plate appearances. “First baseman — left handed, with a scrappy kind of bat,” Carroll said.
7. Senior Chris Pearson (C): The Aces’ senior leader, Pearson has been there and done that. He played most every game last season behind the plate. “It’s so important, especially in this conference with the amount of speed and the people that run the bases at this level – to have somebody with the kind of arm, that has the savvy and experience as Chris,” Carroll said.
8. Freshman Shain Showers (SS): Showers has shoes to fill, replacing former shortstop Eric Stamets — the Aces’ leader last season in batting average (.316) and stolen bases (30). “It’s looking like our freshman shortstop has won the job,” Carroll said. “He’s a scrappy kid that really works hard defensively. He’s come a long way with his work ethic, and he needs to catch the routine balls this year — that’s all I’m asking.”
9. Senior Andy Lasher (OF): The Newburgh native is one of a few area players on the Aces’ roster. He posted a .204 average last season in 41 starts. “We’ll have a local kid in the corner outfield spot,” Carroll said.
1. Sophomore Kyle Freeland (LHP): 4-5 last season with a 4.55 ERA; led the Aces with 70 strikeouts.
2. Junior Sam Johns (RHP): 1-2 last season with a 7.18 ERA; spent summer in Alaska Baseball League with Freeland.
3. Senior Kyle Lloyd (RHP): 6-3 last season with a 3.01 ERA; posted a .241 average against.
4. Junior Cole Isom (LHP): 2-9 last season with a 5.27 ERA; led the Aces with 94 innings pitched.
5. Junior Ryan Billo (RHP): 8-1 last season with a 2.28 ERA; had staff’s lowest ERA.
Feb. 14: UE pitcher Freeland takes lead on Aces’ staff
Feb. 14: Baseball team hears from special guest
Feb. 13: Former player Stamets gets spring training invite
Feb. 9: Pearson, Aces ready to battle through another season
Feb 8: Aceball season a week away