Mercer baseball: The 2014 season
About the team
Head coach: Craig Gibson (11th season, 320-252).
Last season: 43-18, 20-7 A-Sun (first); 0-2 in NCAA Starkville Regional.
Season opener: vs. High Point, 1 p.m., Saturday (doubleheader).
Local ties: LF Nate Moorhouse, Wilcox County; OF Kelcey Butts, Central.
Key regulars lost: OF Logan Gaines (.277, 4 HRs, 7-9 SBs); C David Reid-Foley (.252, .987 fielding pct.); SS Evan Boyd (.238, 11 2Bs, .981 fielding pct.); 1B-C Travis Benn (.234, 4 HRs, 27 RBI); P David Teasley (8-2, 5.57, 4 saves, .250 opposing BA); P David Randall (2-0, 4.61)
Key regulars back: 1B-DH Nick Backlund (.326, 13 HRs, 68 RBI); 2B Michael Massi (.273, 21-26 SBs); 3B Chesny Young (.401, 4 HRs, 65 RBI, 105 hits, 9-12 SBs), CF Sasha LaGarde (.308, 7 HRs, 15-18 SBs); RF Derrick Workman (.338, 9 HRs, 48 RBI), C-1B-DH Austin Barrett (.309, 6 HRs, 45 RBI, .996 fielding pct.).
Scouting report: Mercer went into last season with plenty of experience and won 43 games.
This year, the Bears have more experience.
Some mighty steady players (Evan Boyd started more than 230 games in his career, David Teasley set the NCAA appearances mark and Travis Benn was a solid player) are gone, taking some leadership with them.
But the Bears have almost a dozen pitchers of weekend quality, some flexibility with the middle infield and plenty of potential lineup tweaks.
The biggest boost is the return of Nate Moorhouse in left and atop the lineup. He batted .279 in his transition season from second base to outfield as a sophomore, stealing 20 bases. He was at .318 with five steals after 14 games when he suffered an ACL injury.
Gibson has regularly tailored the lineup to the short dimensions of Claude Smith Field, but the Bears have more team speed this season, making them even more complete. And they werent exactly slow last year.
But a team that can run better than average and go with established proficiency on defense and at the plate makes the Bears even more dangerous.
2B Michael Massi, Sr.
3B Chesny Young, Jr.
DH Nick Backlund, Sr.
SP Brandon Barker, Sr.
RP Dimitri Kourtis, Jr.
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Mercer (7) 97
2. North Florida (1) 86
3. Florida Gulf Coast (2) 73
4. East Tennessee State 69
5. Kennesaw State 64
6. Stetson 60
7. Lipscomb 34
8. USC Upstate 30
9. Jacksonville 27
10. Northern Kentucky 10
Feb. 26 vs. Georgia Southern, 4 p.m.
March 7-9 at Auburn
March 25 at Georgia Tech, 6 p.m.
March 28-30 vs. North Florida
April 9 at Georgia State, 6 p.m.
April 15 at Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.
April 22 vs. Georgia Tech, 6 p.m.
April 25-27 at Florida Gulf Coast
May 9-11 vs. Stetson
May 13 vs. Georgia State, 6 p.m.
A regal resume
Picked first in A-Sun by conference coaches, PerfectGame.org, Baseball America
Ranked No. 25 by Athlon
Received votes in ESPN.com, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, Collegiate Baseball polls.
Listed in Baseball Americas Field of 64
Record of 158-83 past four seasons, average record 39.5-20.8
(Honors are preseason)
3B Chesny Young
Preseason A-Sun player of the year
Third-team All-American, Louisville Slugger and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
1B Nick Backlund
First-team All-American, NCBWA
SS Michael Massi
A-Sun defensive player of the year
P Dimitri Kourtis
NCBWA stopper of the year watch list
P Brandon Barker
A-Sun pitcher of the year, Baseball America
Projected batting order
LF 2 Nate Moorhouse
3B 4 Chesny Young
1B 26 Nick Backlund
C 23 Austin Barrett
RF 11 Derrick Workman
SS 10 Michael Massi
CF 8 Sasha LaGarde
DH 16 Howard Joe
2B 3 Devin Bonin