BUCKHANNON - Coming off winning a divisional title in 2012, West Virginia Wesleyan's baseball team will enter the 2013 season with holes to fill both in the lineup and on the pitching staff.
Apparently the West Virginia Conference coaches believe veteran head coach Randy Tenney is up to the task as the Bobcats have been picked second in the division in the preseason poll.
"After 2011 we lost the bulk of our pitching, and last year we lost our primary power guys from the lineup,"?said Tenney, whose team will open the season today at a tourney in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "We are going to playing a lot of younger guys this year who do not have a lot of college experience
"We are hoping the pitching can materialize and gain some consistency, and offensively, we are going to be playing a lot more small ball and relying on execution and playing smart."
Gone from the lineup is the trio of Mark Darlington, Gene Franks and Corey Flickinger, who combined to smack 19 home runs and drive in 132 runs. They led the team to a 28-19 overall record and a 22-9 conference mark. Also lost to graduation was Aaron Weigel, who hit .308 as well.
Returning is a formidable group of hitters to the lineup. Senior outfielder J.R. Tenney, a Buckhannon-Upshur High School product, returns with a team-best .339 batting average.
Senior Outfielder Ryan Lewicki (Moundsville) hit .319 and led the team with 12 doubles. Senior second baseman Matt Edwards (Lenoir, N.C.) hit .288, while junior shortstop Tommy Brunswick (Bridgeport) hit .279.
The catching tandem of junior Mitch Tomlinson (Maitland, Fla.) and Spencer Webley, a sophomore from Elkins, also return. Tomlinson hit .213, while Webley hit .243 with three home runs.
Senior left-hander Aaron Adams (Crooksville, Ohio) is back as one of the league's premier hurlers. In 2012, Adams posted a 10-4 record while pitching a team-high 105 innings. This included 80 strikeouts and eight complete games in his 17 starts.
Adams teamed with senior Warren Hammel to form a dynamic tandem. The loss of Hammel and his 9-2 record leaves a large hole in the pitching rotation.
Tenney is expecting sophomore Andrew Ornes (Clermont, Fla.) to fill that gap. Ornes started nine games on the mound as a rookie, going 4-5.
This will be Tenney's 27th season at the helm of the Bobcat program, and his first while holding the dual role of athletic director. He has posted a school record for wins with a career mark of 664-402-7.