Feb. 18, 2010

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - Coming off arguably the most successful season under fourth-year head coach Will Gardner, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore baseball team will look to continue to make strides to challenge for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crown in 2010.

UMES finished 14-42 overall and 9-9 in MEAC play, earning the fourth seed for the conference tournament. The Hawks defeated each conference team in the regular season (except eventual MEAC-champion Bethune-Cookman) at least once, earning the fourth seeded in the MEAC Tournament before bowing out to Florida A&M and Norfolk State in the double-elimination format.

The Hawks roster boasts just five seniors, four of which anchor the pitching staff and 10 total returnees, Gardner will rely heavily on the team's new blood and is excited to get the season underway with a three-game series at William and Mary, Feb. 19-21.

"We're chomping at the bit," Gardner said. "We've been working for the past five-and-a-half months to get to this point, it's time to get down to business."

It's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination but we do have some stronger parts than we've had in the past and we're getting closer every year," he continued. "It's going to be a challenge, but that's what makes the game fun - and these guys know it."

The infield will take on a brand new look with only one returning starter left over from last year's squad, which was third in the league in fielding with a .948 percentage.

Second-year assistant coach Eric Armstrong has educated the team's lone returning infielder junior Elliott Alston (Littleton, Colo.) on a new position as he will be moved from third to second base for the bulk of his defensive duties while being counted on to provide a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup.



Alston hit .284, was second on the team in doubles (nine), tied for second in home runs (two), third in hits (48) and tied for fourth in RBIs (25).

The remainder of the infield will have junior-college transfers Luis Mena (Cape Coral, Fla.) and J.J. Corriveau (Hollywood, Fla.) on the left side at third and shortstop, respectively. First base will be occupied by either freshman Lucas Koenig (Berlin, Md.) or junior returner, Bryan Chaikowsky (Bethlehem, Pa.).

Chaikowsky swung a hot bat for the Hawks last year, finishing fourth in the MEAC with a .381 batting average as UMES made a run into the conference tournament. Although the team fell short of advancing, Chaikowsky was named second team All-MEAC and to the MEAC All-Tournament team. He is expected to be a strong pillar in the heart of the Hawks batting order as he led the team in doubles (13), slugging (.619) and on-base percentages (.486) as well as tying for the team lead with two homers.

Catching duties will be shared by junior Nick Wiggins (Littleton, Colo.) and Mena when he's not at third. Corriveau has also proven himself a solid backstop and could provide another option behind the plate.

The mainstay in the outfield is one of the conference's top stolen-base threats in senior center fielder Phil Vaughn (Clinton, Md.). He hit .310 a season ago and was second in the league with 28 swipes in 33 attempts. The speedster led UMES with 74 total bases, 34 runs scored, 57 hits and was hit by a pitch 10 times in all 56 games.

Vaughn will captain his younger counterparts on his wings in left and right, which will are freshmen Tre-Von Johnson (East New Market, Md.) and Donnie Haines (Carneys Point, N.J.), respectively. Chaikowsky could also platoon in right field with Haines.

Others that will be contributing off the bench are sophomore infielder Shaquille Bagwell (Atlantic, Va.) and freshmen outfielders Lorenzo Christy (Germantown, Md.) and Jakai Simmons (Dover, Del.).

The Hawks return all but two of the pitchers from last year and have enhanced the staff's depth under the immediate supervision of new pitching coach Zach Farry.

Anticipated starters for the beginning of the season are junior Matt Witte (Westminster, Md.) and sophomores John DesChamps (Virginia Beach, Va.) and Karim Gonzalez (Mexico City, Mexico).

Witte and DesChamps tied for the team lead with three wins apiece last year while the junior was 12th in the league with a 6.45 ERA. He also pitched one shutout and led the team in strikeouts (49) in 67 innings.

DesChamps spent much 2009 in the bullpen and will probably be pushed back into a long-relief role toward the middle of the season again this year. He threw a team-leading 79.2 innings and ranked second in the MEAC with 23 appearances.

Senior Cameron Zimmerman (Harrisburg, Pa.) is expected to move up into the weekend rotation this season. He made 22 appearance and 10 starts, completing three games. He struck out 45 and walked 43 in 75 innings.

Others that will be leaned on greatly out of the bullpen will be senior Carl Huber (Mount Airy, Md.) and matchup specialist senior Jervonta' Wright (Salisbury, Md.). Freshmen Tony Gonzales (New Braunfels, Texas) and Haines are expected to log a considerable amount of innings in a variety of roles as the season unwinds.

Injury-plagued senior Elliott Arrington (Largo, Md.) will be utilized in a similar capacity once released for competition. Freshman Brandon Mothershead (Ellicott City, Md.), rounds out the new faces of the 2010 pitching staff.

"Time will tell," summed up Gardner. "What we lack in depth, we make up for in versatility. We've been faced with a lot of adversity during the semester break but the team has responded favorably," he said. "To their credit, they've always been ready to tackle the everyday preparation leading up to the season opener. ... If we can stay injury-free, then we could really make this season interesting."

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