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Elon Phoenix baseball to begin 2006 season on Feb. 10

Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2006

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ELON, N.C. -- The Elon Phoenix enters the 2006 season as a team of experience. The roster boasts 11 seniors and 11 juniors and has the potential to be an offensive juggernaut. Coach Mike Kennedy’s squad returns eight position starters and 11 pitchers who saw action from the 2005 team that posted a 32-25 overall record, the sixth consecutive 30+ win season for Elon.

Kennedy brought in nine new faces for the 2006 season, including four transfers who will be juniors this year and three true freshmen.

“We definitely believe that the strength of this club lies in the experience of our position players,” said Kennedy. “We have guys who have not only participated in a lot of games at this level, but who have had some success doing it. With the addition of a few junior college transfers, we have the potential to have a line-up that features four seniors and five juniors. That being said, how well this club performs may rest on the arms of freshmen and sophomores. We will need for these guys to pitch well and have our older pitchers increase their level of play.”

The Pitching Staff
The 2006 pitching staff features nine pitchers who logged at least 21 innings last year. Eight of those will see action this year. The one who will not, Patrick Adams (Salisbury, N.C. - 1-1, 3.74 ERA, 21.2 IP, 22 K), will miss the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Seniors Matt Chastain (Charlotte, N.C. - 4-3, 4.74 ERA, 57.0 IP, 30 K) and Lance Cole (Asheboro, N.C. - 7-3, 6.19 ERA, 77.0 IP, 42 K) return after combining for 134 innings, an 11-6 record and 72 strikeouts. Cole led the staff with seven victories while Chastain demonstrated superb control, walking only 17 hitters.

Chastain and Cole are involved in an intense battle with sophomore Ryan Basham (Winston-Salem, N.C. - 4-3, 5.96 ERA, 68.0 IP, 48 K), freshman Steven Hensley (Asheville, N.C. - 44th-round pick of the Washington Nationals) and freshman Tom Porter (Huntersville, N.C.) for a spot in the weekend rotation. Basham, Porter and Chastain could all fill the closer’s role as well.

Senior Kory Radford (Asheville, N.C. - 0-0, 4.58 ERA, 19.2 IP, 14 K), junior George Blystone (Norwalk, Conn. - 1-4, 6.85 ERA, 22.1 IP, 19 K) and sophomore Jesse Lewter (Raleigh, N.C. - 1-3, 7.60 ERA, 34.1 IP, 28 K) will all compete for starts. All three will be used in a number of roles in 2006, including long and middle relief at the beginning of the year.

Juniors Brian Ebert (Bay Village, Ohio - 0-0, 2.35 ERA, 1 SV, 15.1 IP, 14 K) and Chris Vasami (Mamaromeck, N.Y. - 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 11.0 IP, 8 K) and freshman Dusty Stultz (Reidsville, N.C.) will start the season in the bullpen and will be used in match-up situations early in the year.

Closing out games for the Phoenix in 2006 will be a committee until one true closer emerges. Senior Kevin Regan (Elon, N.C. - 5-2, 2.79 ERA, 2 SV, 48.1 IP, 31 K) could be the top candidate for the job. Says Kennedy, “Kevin is such a competitor that he is the likely choice, however, he is so versatile that we like to go to him whenever we feel we need him. Sometimes that may be the fifth and sixth innings, other times it may be the ninth.”

Seniors Justin Bors (Simpsonville, S.C. - 1-2, 3.54 ERA, 28.0 IP, 16 K) and Chad Tilley (Charlotte, N.C. - 1-2, 4.09 ERA, 1 SV, 22.0 IP, 19 K) may also see time in the closer’s role.

The Catchers
Back behind the plate for the Phoenix in 2006 will be senior Drew Davis (Salisbury, N.C. - .327, 44 R, 14 2B, 44 RBI). Davis has amazing discipline at the plate – he struck out only 11 times in 199 at bats last season. Defensively, Davis gunned down 35.3 percent of potential base stealers last year.

Junior Kevin Pratt (Charlotte, N.C. - .143, 5 R, 3 RBI) may see limited time in a reserve role after appearing in 29 games last year.

Kennedy added two new catchers to the squad this year in junior transfer Robert Rodebaugh (Marietta, Ga.) and true freshman Patrick Irvine (Westwood, Mass.).

Rodebaugh, who may also see time at first base, batted .409 with 15 doubles and a .543 slugging percentage at Presbyterian College last year. Irvine was an all-conference performer as well as the leagues’s rookie of the year as a prep.

Rodebaugh is the likely back-up to Davis, but Irvine as well as senior Grant Rembert (pictured left (Hickory, N.C. - .429, 13 R, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 7 SB) will get some looks behind the plate as well.

The Infielders
Gone from last year are All-Southern Conference honorees Gary Morris and Evan Erickson, but Kennedy is confident that this year’s Phoenix infield will be just as good, if not better than it was a year ago.

Up the middle, senior Paul Bennett (Charlotte, N.C. - .364, 52 R, 13 2B, 36 RBI, 17 SB) will return to the infield after moving primarily to the outfield last year and will begin the season as the starting shortstop. His double play partner will likely be junior transfer Donny Jobe (Vero Beach, Fla.). As a junior, Bennett earned team MVP accolades while Jobe is expected to hit at the top of the order after batting .333 with a .470 slugging percentage and 83 runs scored in two years at Manatee Community College.

The corner positions look to be held down by two returning players – Vasami (.270, 18 R, 5 H, 30 RBI) at first and junior Adam Weaver (Rocky Mount, N.C. - .269, 33 R, 13 2B, 27 RBI) at third. Weaver moves to the hot corner after seeing the majority of his playing time at shortstop in 2005.

Junior John Walker (Charlotte, N.C. - .224, 6 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI), along with sophomore Danny Miller (Brookeville, Md. - .279, 8 R, 12 RBI) and senior Chris Price (Asheville, N.C. - .379, 54 R, 4 HR, 53 RBI, 52 BB), will also see some time at first in 2006. Walker made 34 appearances, including 11 starts, as a sophomore. Miller saw time in 26 outings, making six starts, as a red-shirt freshman last year.

Sophomore Matt Hill (Charlotte, N.C. - .262, 34 R, 8 2B, 20 RBI) is a versatile infielder who could see action at a number of infield positions in 2006. Hill started 34 games last year and will fight with Weaver for time at third. He may also see action at second this season.

Junior transfer Jordy Snyder (Pauline, S.C.) will receive a long look at both middle infield spots and should see plenty of action this spring as well. At Spartanburg Methodist Junior College, Snyder compiled a .358 batting average, scored 97 runs and drove in 61 runs over two years.

The Outfielders
The Phoenix outfield receives a big boost with the return of Rembert to the lineup in right. Rembert, who missed all but nine games with a hand injury in 2005, provides a good batting average, middle-of-the-order power and leadership for Elon.

Another junior transfer, Ryan Addison (Marietta, Ga.) will look to anchor centerfield for the Phoenix in 2006. Addison posted a .350 average with 22 steals last year at Young Harris Junior College.

Price (pictured right) will start the season in leftfield while senior Ryan Radford (Asheville, N.C. - .276, 22 R, 6 2B, 13 RBI) is expected to battle for time in the outfield after appearing in 49 games last year. Snyder will see time in the outfield as well.

Sophomores Stuart Bost (Charlotte, N.C. - .278, 6 R, 7 RBI), Chris Bland (Shallotte, N.C. - .188, 3 R) and Austin Boehme (Winston-Salem, N.C. - .000, 1 AB) along with junior Matt Link (Marietta, Ga. - .267, 10 R, 1 RBI) will fight for time patrolling the outfield for the Phoenix this year as well. In 2005, Bost saw time in 26 games before suffering an injury. Also a member of Elon’s football team, Bland saw limited time, mostly as a pinch runner. Boehme appeared in only three games before an injury ended his season. Link appeared in 39 games as a reserve.

True freshman Matt Hinson (Siler City, N.C.) will also be in the mix for an outfield spot.

The Schedule
The 2006 Phoenix baseball schedule will feature 15 games against teams that participated in the 2005 NCAA Division I Regionals.

Elon will play three games each with tournament participants South Carolina and Auburn out of the SEC, SoCon rivals College of Charleston and Furman as well as two games with Clemson and one with North Carolina out of the ACC. The Phoenix will visit each of those teams this season.

Other non-league matchups include two games with ACC foes Duke and Wake Forest, two games with UNC Wilmington of the CAA, two games with rival High Point (Big South), two dates with Campbell (Atlantic Sun), three-game sets with Fordham (Atlantic-10), Siena (MAAC) and Kent State (MAC) as well as a single game with Brown (Ivy).

“We have traditionally played a very tough slate and 2006 will not be any different,” commented Kennedy. “When you add the likes of South Carolina, Auburn, North Carolina and Clemson to an already tough Southern Conference schedule, you can understand the challenges that face our ball club this spring. Our goal is to get to regional play and if we play well during the regular season, this schedule will put us in position to be playing in June. It is a challenging schedule that our guys are looking forward to.”

The 2006 season begins with three games at South Carolina starting on Feb. 10. The home slate begins on Feb. 15 against Duke. Elon’s first Southern Conference tilt will be at home on Mar. 3 against Western Carolina.

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