Cavs go to bat with 20 freshmen, depth in pitching, defensive play
There will be plenty of new faces on the diamond this season for the UVa-Wise Cavalier baseball team.
Head Coach Hank Banner enters this season with one of his youngest teams in his 21 years as the head coach of the Cavaliers, as the preseason roster lists an astonishing 20 freshmen.
“I think we’re a really young ballclub with a lot of new faces,” Banner said, “but I feel like we’ve added a lot of depth, especially from a pitching standpoint.”
LHP/DH Nathan Hatmaker (Harrogate, Tenn.), RHP Devon Moring (Portsmouth, Va.) and OF/1B Vinny Kuchenbuch (Riner, Va.) are the only seniors on the roster this season for the Cavaliers, and they will need to provide valuable leadership for many players seeing their first collegiate action.
Despite their youth, Banner thinks that he has a very talented roster, which will provide depth that will be crucial near the end of the season.
When asked about some newcomers who could make a potential impact early in their collegiate careers, Banner mentioned freshman IF Joey Skov (Leesburg, Va.), freshman C Tyler Blaum (Mechanicsville, Va.) and freshman C Noah Lacy (Leesburg, Va.).
Freshman OF Jordan Turner (Berryville, Va.), freshman RHP/OF Nate Thompson (Wise, Va.) and redshirt freshman LHP/1B Trevor Nevill (Hoover, Ala.) also were mentioned as players who had played particularly well in fall and spring practices.
“Joey Skov had a tremendous fall and really solidified that spot (shortstop), and I think (Nate) Thompson will probably see double duty both as right fielder and as a pitcher, so he could really be a big impact player for us,” said Banner.
Hatmaker and junior college transfers RHP Matthew Wilkinson (Clarksville, Va.) and LHP Joe Catalani (Front Royal, Va.) are expected to lead a deeper, more talented rotation for the Cavs this season.
Four players will compete for playing time behind the plate as newcomers Blaum and Lacy join returning sophomores David Thomas (Goodview, Va.) and Cal Bailey (Suffolk, Va.). Defense was an area of emphasis for the Cavs in fall practice, and that is something that has continued throughout the beginning of spring practice.
“Last year I really felt like we were a sub-par defensive ballclub, but I think we are a much improved defensive team this year,” Banner claimed.
The Cavs expect to rely on their pitching and defense at the beginning of the season, while their young players acclimate to the speed of the college game.
“The early part of the year is going to be tough for us, because it’s going to be an adjustment period for these guys, but I think they are going to handle it well,” Banner said.
The Cavs will open the season with a doubleheader against St. Augustine University on Feb. 4 in Raleigh, N.C. They will start MEC play in their home opener with another doubleheader against Urbana University on Mar.18.