Baseball squad, tabbed as SAC favorite, to open play on Sunday

Catawba College will open its 2003 baseball season on Sunday, hosting Claflin College for a doubleheader beginning a 1 p.m. The Indians are picked as the league favorite after claiming the South Atlantic Conference Tournament title last year. The Tribe returns only three position starters from last year, but brings back all of its top pitchers. Chad Hill, a two-time all-region pick at shortstop, is one of the top returners on offense. He was a first-team All-SAC pick after hitting .354 and leading the team with 50 RBI. He had a .608 slugging percentage as he collected 20 doubles, five triples and hit six home runs. Hill stole 12 bases in 13 attempts and had a .943 fielding percentage. The other two returning starters also put up big offensive numbers. Spence Southard had a team-leading .368 batting average with 40 RBI. The junior outfielder set a school record with 30 stolen bases and was caught only five times. An excellent defensive outfielder, Southard recorded 100 put outs and had just two errors. Blair Reynolds, who returns to second base after a year at third, set s school record with 26 doubles last season. The senior hit .343, had 48 RBI and scored a team-leading 56 runs. Other returners include Matt Baker, Justin Plummer, Jeff Boyles and Thomas Giles. Baker was mainly used as a designated hitter last season, but could see action at first base this season following an injury in the fall to returning starter Matt Smith, who will be out for the season. Baker hit .301 with two homers and 15 RBI. Boyles will inherit the duties behind the plate after a back-up role for the previous two seasons. The junior had a pair of home runs in 56 at bats last season. Plummer and Giles saw part-time action in the outfield. Chris Foy, who red-shirted last season, will see action behind the plate and as a designated hitter, while Scott Searles, who missed last season with an injury, will see action at third base. On the mound, first team All-SAC and All-South Region pick, Zach Snyder returns to head the staff. The junior posted a 1.61 ERA and a 9-2 mark last season. He allowed just 66 hits and 36 walks over 89 and a third innings with 73 strikeouts. Also returning is All-SAC Tournament performers Brian Hatley (6-5, 5.15 ERA), Matt Fairweather (5-1, 5.36 ERA) and Chris Abernathy (4-2, 5.98 ERA). Others returning to add depth to the staff is Spencer Anthony, Jeff Abdelnour, Mark Smith, John Hearn, Mark Hamilton, Thomas Giles and Jake Talley. A few of the newcomers to watch are David Hughes, a transfer from Lenoir Community College, who will see action at first base, and outfielders Nick Lefko, Jimbo Davis and Aaron Rimer. All three were members of Rowan County’s American Legion State Championship squad. Freshman pitchers Scott Dunning and Nick Mayle will add more depth to a strong staff. #####

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