Spring Preview-Spartanburg Methodist College
By: Tim Wallace-February 9, 2007
The Spartanburg Methodist College Pioneers look forward to the challenge of defending their 2006 Region X Championship. The 2007 squad has a chance to be a special group with the return of six pitchers who logged at least seven appearances (25-14 in 256 innings) last spring and six hitters who reached the .300 plateau in at least 90 at-bats. Mix in a few quality transfers and a strong freshman class and you have the ingredients for a solid club.
Last year’s 44-18 record and Region Championship plaque are now on the wall, but the 2007 version of the Pioneers is ready to establish it’s own identity. The pieces are there, we just have to put the puzzle together.
Pitchers: SMC returns three weekend starters from last year in first team All-Region performer David Walters (10-3, 3.61 ERA; River Hills, MD; Campbell signee), Trey Delk (5-3, 2.63 ERA; Lugoff-Elgin HS; Clemson signee) and Travis Botts (3-3, 3.24 ERA; Chesnee HS). Also returning is Adam Bullard (3-1, 2.18 ERA; Mauldin HS; Gardner-Webb signee) and Brett Elliot (2-3, 4.25 ERA; Lancaster HS). These young men, along with Brock Dorsett (Leesville Road, NC), Tim Rau (Mauldin HS) and Craig Roberson (Liberty HS) all picked up valuable experience in last year’s post-season run.
Newcomers who should see ample opportunities on the mound include Allen Caldwell (Sumter HS), Jeff Dulaney (Glenelg, MD), Matt Layman (South Mecklenburg, NC) and Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick Phillip Brannon (Broome HS). The staff is rounded out by Zeb Heidt (Murray County, GA), Corey Prescott (Lakewood HS), Carlton Watts (Thornwell HS), Jonathon Williams and Gaston Wingo (both from Mauldin HS).
Catchers: The catching duties will be split between a group of four quality backstops. 2006 First team All-Region catcher Phillip Morgan (.365, 8 HR, 53 RBI; Chapman HS) returns after leading last year’s club in the three offensive categories listed. He can also handle duties at 1B when needed. Jacob Wallace (USC transfer, Dorman HS) will see time behind the dish while also adding a potent left-handed bat. Freshman Logan Bland (Bishop-England HS) brings a plus arm and right-handed power while Justin Weaver (Hillcrest HS) is a solid defensive option behind the plate.
Infielders: The infield will be led by transfer Keon Graves (Coastal Carolina transfer, Dillon HS). Graves brings tremendous quickness to the hot corner while also swinging a pretty good bat. Graves was named the #1 Pro Prospect in the Coastal Plains League this past summer and was recently tabbed by Baseball America as the Pre-season Player of the Year for all of Junior College baseball. He will be backed up by two talented freshmen, Curtis Murphy (Brookland-Cayce HS) and Jeremy Smith (First Presbyterian Day, GA). Shortstop should be handled by another transfer, Brooks Robinson (Coastal Carolina). Robinson had a good fall season with the bat and has attracted some pro interest. Also working at short will be freshman Jon Lewis Floyd (Broome HS). Second looks to go to freshman Justin Brewer (Eastside HS), a playable fielder who can swing the bat. He’ll be backed by Brad Rollison (Presbyterian transfer, Greenville HS). Freshman Will Fulmer (North Augusta) will see plenty of time at first base. He has tremendous feet around the bag, throws very well for a big guy and swings a powerful stick. Helping out at first will be Tristan Toorie (Brookwood, GA).
Outfield: USC signee and 2006 second team All-Region member Ryan Wilkins (.335, 24 RBI; Spartanburg HS) will patrol center and hit in the leadoff spot for the Pioneers. Kedric Wadsworth (Mid-Carolina HS) can also go get it in centerfield and will see some action in 2007. Leftfield will be handled by Matt O’Rourke (.320; Saratoga Central Catholic, NY) and freshman Jon Lewis (Buford HS). Rightfield should be interesting as returner Bucky Wells (.333; Socastee HS) and newcomer Allen Caldwell (Sumter HS) battle it out.
Designated Hitter: There are plenty of candidates for the DH spot. Depending on rather we’re facing a righty or lefty, the list includes Morgan, Wallace, Fulmer, Bullard (.315), Caldwell and Botts (.352 as a shortstop a year ago).
The 2007 Pioneer squad is a talented group. I believe we have the makings of a good offensive club. I don’t think we’ll scare people with speed but we should hit a lot of doubles. We won’t be outstanding defensively but we should be able to make the routine play. Pitching-wise, we have a deep and talented staff that should be able to throw strikes and give us a chance to win. If we can sort out the batting order and establish our weekend rotation, we have a chance to have a pretty good year.
This group of young men has worked hard in preparing for this spring, both on the field and in the weightroom, and is excited about the opportunities in front of them. They realize the history of the SMC program and are anxious to see how they stack up with all of the former Pioneer teams.
Note: DP thanks head coach Tim Wallace for breaking down junior college baseball #19-ranked team.