Feb. 9, 2014
Just as its going to be tough to fill the shoes at first base with the departure of all-conference performer Chase McDonald, East Carolina will also look to replace its middle infield now that Bryan Bass (2B) and Jack Reinheimer (SS) are gone.
In trying to replace Bass, who batted .302 with a home run, four doubles, 27 walks and scored 36 runs, ECU will turn to three-year veteran and preseason Conference USA Co-Player-of-the-Year Drew Reynolds. A year ago, Reynolds earned Second-Team Collegiate Baseball All-America honors after leading the club with a .322 (68-for-211) average where he laced 13 doubles, drove in 22 runs and scored 30 - all as the Pirates designated hitter. This year he will see more action in the infield than he has takes over at second, a position he played four times during his freshman season.
Reynolds is a natural athlete, solid defender and team leader, who has bounced around the field during his time in Greenville. The Cherryville, N.C. native has played first, second, third and left field, while also closing out games for the Pirate pitching staff. Offensively there is no drop-off with Reynolds manning second as he is a career .313 (147-for-470) hitter with 21 doubles, three home runs, 47 RBI and 65 runs scored. Hitting coach Ben Sanderson has classified him as the Pirates Tony Gwynn because of his natural ability to find ways to get on base and will once again be penciled in as the three-hole hitter in the lineup.
Newcomer Charlie Yorgen will likely backup Reynolds as the season gets underway. Yorgen, a two-time Virginia All-State selection, helped St. Christopher's High School claim the state championship in 2013 where he batted .333 with 14 RBI and scored 27 runs on his way to Virginia Player-of-the-Year honors. A solid infielder with a strong throwing arm and a great first step defensively, he can play anywhere in the infield and will be used as a defensive replacement when Reynolds toes the rubber late in the game.
Senior Joshua Lovick, a versatile defender, could also see time at second late in the games as a defensive replacement. The Kinston, N.C. native came to East Carolina as a catcher in 2011, but the last two seasons has bounced around the infield due to his soft hands and solid defensive play.
Heading into the start of the 2014 season, the one position up for battle has been at shortstop in trying to find a replacement of Reinheimer, who signed with the Seattle Mariners after being selected in the fifth round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft. Junior College transfer Hunter Allen and true freshman Kirk Morgan have both gotten equal reps at short and will most likely hit in the bottom third of the lineup.
Allen, who was a two-year starter at Brunswick Community College, is a plus defender who batted .371 (62-for-167) with seven doubles and 35 RBI last year with the Dolphins on his way to earning second-team All-America honors. A true switch-hitter, Allen sported a two-year average of .359 with 10 doubles, 51 RBI, while drawing 30 walks and striking out 13 times for Brunswick Community College. He tallied 33 multi-hit and 11 multi-RBI games and scored 69 career runs.
Morgan comes to ECU as one of the top shortstops in the state of North Carolina a year ago. The Charlotte, N.C. native has a high baseball IQ and has been described as a throw back player by ninth-year head coach Billy Godwin. Despite sitting out a majority of his senior season with an injury, he boasted a career batting average of .409 (114-for-279) with 28 doubles and 53 RBI. Morgan tallied 34 multi-hit and 13 multi-RBI contests with 89 career runs, and was named to three-straight IMECK All-Conference squads.
Check back tomorrow when we take a look at third base and the designated hitters.