Hawks opens baseball season at home on Friday against Millsaps

The Huntingdon baseball team opens the season at home against Millsaps on Friday. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.
The Huntingdon baseball team opens the season at home against Millsaps on Friday. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Huntingdon baseball team put together an impressive run in 2016.

In its third season in the USA South Athletic Conference, the Hawks put together a 27-19 record, won their first USA South title and advanced to the NCAA Division III South Regional for the second time.

The goals for the 2017 season are high as always and Huntingdon enters the season ranked No. 3 in the conference preseason poll. The Hawks will face their first test this weekend as they host Millsaps.

Game 1 is set for Friday at 5 p.m. The series will conclude with a doubleheader on Saturday. Game 1 of the doubleheader is set for 1 p.m.

As the season begins, Huntingdon will be counting on a mixture of experienced players and newcomers. Despite having to replace seven starters in the field and two of their top three pitchers, the Hawks return four players who earned at least 18 starts in the field and five pitchers who made at least seven appearances on the mound.

"We have some experience returning and we're excited about several of the newcomers," Huntingdon head coach D.J. Conville said. "We're playing some good teams early and we're looking to use the first part of the season to develop and get ready for conference play in March and April."

Leading the pitchers is senior Zach McGrady, who led the Hawks last season with an 8-5 record, 65 strikeouts and a 2.72 ERA in 96 innings. McGrady was the MVP of the USA South Conference Tournament last season.

Seniors Matt Gatewood and C.J. Sauce combined for four wins, two saves and 49 strikeouts last season. Gatewood was 3-0 with 30 strikeouts in 38.1 innings and Sauce was 1-1 with two saves and 19 strikeouts in 33 innings. Seniors Wes Nail and Brad Eckmyre combined to make 15 appearances in 2016.

Among the position players, senior Josh Hines made 27 starts at third base and juniors Josh Jackson and Coleson Taylor combined for 41 starts at catcher. Senior Cody Shoemaker split 18 starts between designated hitter and first base.

Hines batted .326 with 19 RBIs and 11 runs, Taylor and Jackson combined for 15 RBIs and 17 runs and Shoemaker batted .311 with 17 RBIs and nine runs.