Feb. 17, 2011

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - The University of Maryland Eastern Shore baseball team opens the 2011 season with renewed optimism, hoping to make strides towards building a foundation to compete for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title.

UMES finished the 2010 season 8-43 and 3-15 in the MEAC, earning the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament, before falling to Bethune-Cookman and Coppin State in the tournament. The Hawks won three of their final four home contests of the season, the second three-game winning streak of the year.

The future for the Hawks looks bright as the team returns six position players, including three of their top four hitters, with at least 36 games played last season plus a solid class of newcomers that could make UMES a strong force in the MEAC.

INFIELD UMES will have a solid combination of experience and youth in the infield this season. Junior Shaquille Bagwell, who compiled 31 starts at second base in 2011, leads all returners with a .314 average. Also returning in the infield is senior Elliot Alston, UMES's primary cleanup hitter last year, who in 48 games hit .261 with three home runs, 10 doubles and 19 RBI.

James Newsome, a junior-college transfer from the College of Southern Maryland in his first year with UMES, highlights the incoming infielders. Newsome hit .349 with four home runs in 2010. Five other local players will look to compete on the diamond this season, freshman Jordan McDougal from Oxon Hill, freshman Jeff Fleetwood from Delmar and two players from Salisbury: sophomore Brent Lewis and freshman Cody Cauffman.



OUTFIELD Beyond the infield dirt is perhaps where the Hawks return the most experience this season, including 2010 All-MEAC Second Team outfielder Bryan Chaikowsky. In 51 games the lefty batter hit .293 with three home runs, 10 doubles, 25 RBI and stole 13 bases. Tre-Von Johnson, a sophomore, who moves to center fielder this season hit .302 with three home runs and 15 stolen bases, leading the team with 26 RBI and six triples, the latter tying for top in the MEAC. Lorenzo Christy saw action in 17 games last season, including eight starts in left field.

The Hawks will also benefit from the return of Franklin Armstrong, who missed last season after starting 46 games in 2009 with a .225 average, four triples and six steals.

There are a few new faces that will compete for starting time with the graduation of All-MEAC Second Team outfielder Phil Vaughn. Stephen Bull from Millsboro and Byron Campbell from Waldorf will play their first season for the Hawks in 2011.

CATCHERS The team returns an experienced duo of senior catchers in 2011, both of whom started in at least 44 contests on the field last year. Nick Wiggins started 37 games behind the plate hitting .154 with a home run. Also returning is Luis Mena, who split time between catcher and third last year, hitting .197 with 13 RBI last season.

PITCHING STAFF The Hawks will looks to mostly the newcomers on the mound this season. The staff, which is composed entirely of right-handed pitchers, returns two players from last season: junior Karim Gonzalez, who compiled a 1-9 record last season with 36 strikeouts, and Matt Witte, who comes into his senior season after leading the Hawks in wins in 2010 with three and 39 strikeouts.

Among the newcomers include Matt's brother Tyler, a freshman who looks to compete in the starting rotation. Jacob Foreman, transfer from Alleghany College, will join the Hawks rotation after going 5-1 with a 3.74 ERA in 2010 in junior college play. Three other newcomers will look to compete for innings in their freshman season, Bernard Parker and Sean Woods, both from the state of Maryland, and Zachary Saca out of California.

SCHEDULE The Hawks are set to play 47 games this year, 24 at Hawks Stadium and 23 on the road. The schedule includes series against all six of UMES's conference opponents in the MEAC plus contests across the Bay Bridge in Maryland plus Delaware, North Carolina, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

UMES will begin the season with a three-game set against Appalachian State Feb. 18-20. The series will be followed by a nine-game homestand, including three games each against Fairleigh Dickinson and Long Island. After a trip to Philadelphia to play Temple and a home doubleheader against Mount St. Mary's, the Hawks will head to Virginia to play Richmond for a three-game weekend series, followed by a doubleheader with Campbell.

Other non-conference matchups include mid-week battles with Lehigh, St. Peter's, a doubleheader rematch with Mount St. Mary's on the road, a home-and-away with Navy, Towson and George Washington.

The conference slate begins with Coppin State in Princess Anne on March 26, starting with a doubleheader on Saturday and a third game on Sunday. MEAC series will occur with Delaware State on the road on April 2-3, Norfolk State at home on April 9-10, North Carolina A&T in Greensboro on April 16-17, Florida A&M at home on April 22-23 and finally the reigning MEAC-champion Bethune-Cookman from April 30-May 1. The Hawks will compete for seeding in the MEAC Tournament which is set for May 19-22.

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