Baseball team anticipate 2015 season

Coming off of a strong 2014 season, the Mercer Men’s Baseball Team is prepared to begin its much anticipated 2015 season. Last year, the Bears finished 38-17, and the team was eliminated by the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers on the second day of the Atlantic Sun Championship. The Bears’ 2014 season was filled with memorable feats from strong programs, which include two wins against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and a win against the University of Florida Gators.

The Bears will return to Claude Smith Field with the loss of eight seniors and one junior who was drafted into the MLB. Although the Bears have added 10 freshmen and three transfers to the roster, their 2015 schedule will still prove to be difficult. The team opens at home facing the Virginia Tech Hokies On Feb. 13. Along with facing other top division one programs, the Bears’ closing pitcher, Dimitri Kourtis, believes that long-time rivals still exist.

“I would have to say Georgia Tech is our biggest competitor outside of the Southern Conference,” said Kourtis. “They will be ready for us after we have won four of the last six in the past three years.”

Along with facing Georgia Tech, the Bears will also compete with in-state rivals, Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia. While these contests will prove to be difficult for the Bears, the team is excited to be able to compete in the Southern Conference.

In a recent coaches poll, the Bears were picked to finished third in the conference while they were picked to finish second overall in the media poll. Three players, Eric Nyquist, Charlie Madden and Howard Joe, were all recognized for their stellar performances in 2014.

Nyquist was the only member chosen to be a part of the All-SoCon Preseason First Team. The senior pitcher for the Bears started in 13 games posting an ERA of 3.12. Nyquist was also named to the All-Atlantic Sun First Team and led the conference with two shutouts and four complete games.

Both Howard Joe and Charlie Madden were chosen as part of the All-SoCon Preseason Second Team. Joe, a redshirt infielder for the Bears, competed in 30 contests during the 2014 season and hit .220 with nine runs scored.

Madden, the catcher for the team, played in 47 games with 39 starts as a true freshman. He hit .269 on the year and drove in 22 runs on the year. Kourtis believes that Madden was a vital part of the team’s success in 2014 and will be crucial, along with other players, for the Bears to continue their success.

“We have a bunch of good assets this year. Kyle Lewis and Charlie madden have been hitting really well in scrimmages,” said Kourtis. “From a pitching standpoint, Ryan askew has improved tremendously. Also, having DJ (Johnson) back this year will be vital to our success.”

After sitting out a season, Johnson will be a valuable asset returning for the Bears. In the 2013 season, Johnson was the starting pitcher for their Sunday games. He started in 14 games and posted a 3.06 ERA, which was 10th in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Overall, the Kourtis and the rest of the team are excited to get back on the field and show the Southern Conference what the Bears are about.

“This season is a new conference, a new team and an exciting chance to win two different conference championships,” said Kourtis.RTG20140522-0317_cmyk