Riley Report: a brief (and late) preseason preview

Yes, this is late. I was waiting on some information that as of yet isn’t available, so I can’t work on part of the statistical breakdown I had intended to make.

Anyway, what follows is a curtailed preview.

Links of interest:


“Quick Facts” from the school website

Season preview from The Post and Courier

SoCon preview, Baseball America

SoCon preview, College Baseball Daily

SoCon preseason polls (The Citadel is picked second in both)

SoCon preseason all-conference teams

Fred Jordan discusses the team’s preparations for the season (video)

Note: all statistics are for Southern Conference games only unless otherwise indicated.

This chart features the 2013 offensive statistics in league play for The Citadel’s returning players:

H. Armstrong 120 36 0 13 15 0.383 0.449 0.467 0.916
Mason Davis 140 30 3 7 17 0.336 0.377 0.464 0.841
Calvin Orth 124 26 7 4 25 0.331 0.366 0.565 0.931
Bo Thompson 105 27 9 33 13 0.314 0.493 0.610 1.103
Tyler Griffin 58 14 4 10 20 0.310 0.423 0.552 0.975
D. DeKerlegand 111 22 2 15 23 0.297 0.410 0.441 0.851
J. Stokes 121 20 3 9 18 0.289 0.333 0.413 0.746
Bailey Rush 55 8 2 5 16 0.273 0.328 0.473 0.801
Bret Hines 42 4 0 4 8 0.214 0.300 0.262 0.562
Jason Smith 21 2 0 1 7 0.048 0.087 0.048 0.135
Connor Walsh 3 0 0 0 1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Totals 900 189 30 101 163 0.309 0.389 0.471 0.860

Now, compare that to the totals in conference action for the returning players from this time last year:

Totals 705 94 7 78 142 0.234 0.318 0.333 0.652

You can see why there is a lot of hope for the Bulldogs’ offense this season. Every one of last year’s regulars returns except for catcher Joe Jackson (though he is a big exception, to be sure), and most of those returnees had good-to-excellent campaigns in 2013. The outlook is a lot rosier than it was prior to the 2013 season.

Assorted stats from this year’s returning players: as a group they were hit by pitches 25 times in SoCon play. Their walk rate (11.2%) per at bat was a tick higher than in 2012 (11.1%), with almost a third of that total courtesy of Bo Thompson, who walked in 31.4% of his at bats.

Thompson was also hit by pitches six times in the league regular season, second on the team to Drew DeKerlegand (seven).

Hughston Armstong had seven of the team’s 23 sacrifice bunts in SoCon action. Nine of the eleven Bulldogs to get at bats in conference play had at least one sacrifice fly (the team had 12 in 30 league games).

The Citadel’s 2013 returnees stole 30 bases last year in conference play (out of 42 attempts). Armstrong, DeKerlegand, and Mason Davis combined for 28 of those steals, with Bret Hines swiping the other two.

That percentage of successful steals (71.4%) isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either, and doesn’t include the seven times Bulldogs on the current roster were picked off in SoCon action.

However, what isn’t taken into account with those numbers is the potential for advancing on errors, balks, etc. Defensive execution in college baseball is not at the same level as it is in the professional ranks, and that goes a long way to explaining the emphasis by many teams on the running game and “smallball”.

Is it overdone on occasion? Yes. However, I never got the sense that was the case for The Citadel last year (other than a Bo Thompson bunt attempt early in the season that made me cringe).

That said, the Bulldogs can do better. In 2012, The Citadel stole bases at a 77.8% clip (42 for 54) while only having five baserunners picked off in league play.

SoCon-only statistics for the Bulldogs’ returning pitchers:

Brett Tompkins 1 0 3 1 0 0 0 0.00 15.00 6.00
Ross White 9 0 8 10 4 2 0 2.25 6.75 1.13
James Reeves 13 3 32 27 11 9 1 2.53 7.59 1.69
Logan Cribb 10 8 50.1 50 30 21 9 3.75 8.23 1.97
Skylar Hunter 16 0 20 17 10 10 2 4.50 10.35 4.50
Zach Sherrill 23 0 19 16 13 10 0 4.74 7.11 3.32
David Rivera 18 0 19.2 22 11 11 1 5.03 7.32 2.29
Austin Mason 10 9 33 59 43 34 2 9.27 6.00 2.45
Austin Livingston 2 0 1.2 3 2 2 0 10.80 5.40 5.40
Kevin Connell 10 0 10.1 24 17 15 1 13.06 4.35 2.61
Totals 114 20 197 229 141 114 16 5.21 7.58 2.51

Last year’s corresponding totals:

Totals 91 29 226 259 144 123 14 4.91 5.38 3.83

During last year’s preview, I wrote:

The walk rates [in 2012] were obviously too high, and must be lowered. They were not completely unmanageable…but typical Bulldog pitching staffs do not walk people at that rate. Teams that contend for league titles do not walk people at that rate.

I am particularly concerned with the strikeout totals, however. Having a 5.38 K/9 rate as a team is problematic. Pitchers need those strikeouts.

Well, they got those strikeouts, all right. Look at those improved K and BB rates for the 2013 campaign .

In conference play, Bulldog pitchers struck out almost 2 1/2 more batters per nine innings than they did in 2012, and at the same time lowered their walk rates by about 1 1/3 BB per nine IP (remember, this doesn’t count Austin Pritcher’s numbers, and he was only the league’s Pitcher of the Year).

Based on that comparison, you would have to say the Britt Reames Experience is having a very positive effect.

There are some things to be cautious about, however. The Bulldogs do have to replace Pritcher in the weekend rotation. Last year, returnees had started 29 of the previous year’s 30 league games.

Also, pitching success can vary from year to year, even among returning hurlers. The good news is that the Bulldogs have a lot of options.

The obvious statistic of concern is the team ERA, which actually increased in league play by 0.3 of a run per nine innings. What is interesting about that is the hit rate per nine innings showed almost no variance from 2012 to 2013.

Homers were up, though. On the other hand, nine of the sixteen home runs hit off Bulldog pitching in conference play were allowed by Logan Cribb, and he still fashioned a fine 3.75 ERA.

The increased ERA can be partly attributed to a few bad outings by Bulldog pitchers,and the conference run environment was also an issue. Updated park factors for the league are not available yet, but there was a significant increase in runs (and corresponding league ERA) in 2013.

There were 2068 runs scored in SoCon play in 2013, after 1843 runs were scored in conference action in 2012. The league ERA jumped from 4.69 to 5.42.

One other thing: no, that’s not a typo, Zach Sherrill really did pitch in 23 of 30 conference games in 2013. He appeared in 48 games overall, shattering the school record for pitching appearances and leading the entire nation in regular-season games on the hill.

At one point during the season, Sherrill pitched in 11 consecutive games. He was very effective (which is why he kept getting the call from the bullpen), but part of me hopes the Bulldogs don’t have to lean on him so often this year.

The Citadel’s DER (defensive efficiency rating) in SoCon play last season was 68.9%, right around where it had been in 2012 (68.8%). The Bulldogs’ DER the last two seasons is much improved from 2011 (63.2%).

While The Citadel committed many more errors in league action in 2013 (57) than in 2012 (39), in terms of actually getting to balls and recording outs, the results were about the same. This indicates that a number of the “extra” errors were overthrows and other types of mistakes, which allowed opponents to advance further on the basepaths.

Double play totals declined from 25 to 14. That may be related to ground ball/fly ball rates from Bulldog pitchers, however.

The league DER in 2013 was only 66.1%, which was down considerably from 2012 (68.4%). I’m not quite sure what to make of that, other than it certainly contributed to the higher run totals across the conference.

Opponents were 29 for 42 on stolen base attempts against the Bulldogs in SoCon games. Ten opposing baserunners were picked off.

The conference as a whole averaged 52 attempted steals per team in league games, with a success rate of 74.3%. Those numbers are inflated slightly by Wofford, which attempted 101 steals in its 30 SoCon contests (and was successful 78 times).

Only Western Carolina allowed fewer stolen bases in conference play than The Citadel, with the Catamounts having a very impressive 51% defensive caught stealing rate (21 for 41).

This is a season that Bulldog fans have been waiting for since…well, since last season ended. The Citadel should be very good on the diamond in 2014. The squad has considerable talent and a lot of experience.

I really like the non-conference schedule this year. Plenty of quality opponents are on the slate, both at home and on the road.

As a result, the Bulldogs may struggle at times in the early part of the season, but they should be well prepared once league play rolls around.

A few things to watch:

1) The weekend rotation, especially the Sunday starter

2) Possible platoon situations at first base/third base/DH

3) The pitcher-catcher dynamic (particularly with regards to baserunners)

4) New contributors, including some who have been around the program (Ryan Kilgallen, for example), and others making their collegiate debuts (such as Austin Mapes)

5) Whether or not Bo Thompson can hit a ball on the fly into the Lockwood Boulevard parking lot

I’m tired of winter. I’m ready for spring.

Spring on the diamond in 2014 could be a lot of fun.

Riley Report: We must defend this park

The Citadel has now played 33 games this season, including 12 SoCon contests. There is still plenty of action left on the diamond (including 18 league games to come), but I thought it would be worth taking a quick look at how things are progressing so far in the 2013 campaign. To sum up:

– Offense: Good

– Pitching: A work in progress, but the potential is there

– Defense: Ugh

When I previewed the season, I primarily concentrated on league statistics. I’m going to go back and forth between overall and SoCon stats in this post, mainly because 12 games isn’t much of a sample size.

Offensively, the Bulldogs have been solid. The breakout star has been Bo Thompson, who has established himself as one of the league’s premier power hitters, combining patience with pop — and when I say pop, I’m talking serious moonshots. Thompson has hit some of the longest home runs ever seen at Riley Park.

He also is willing to wait on his pitch, and is not easy to strike out (10 homers, 12 strikeouts). Thompson has an OPS of 1206 overall, which rises to 1478 (!) in SoCon play.

Joe Jackson is also having a nice season at the plate. Jackson has a 939 OPS overall and has been even better in league action (1167). Like Thompson, he doesn’t strike out very often (13 times in 134 plate appearances).

Drew DeKerlegand is having a fine bounce-back campaign, hitting well overall (998 OPS) and in Southern Conference games (1000 OPS). He also leads the team in getting hit by pitches, having been plunked 10 times.

Hughston Armstrong leads the team with a .383 batting average. He isn’t a power threat (only 3 of his 41 hits have gone for extra bases), but he can handle the bat (10 sac bunts, leading the squad) and knows his way around the bases (9-9 in steals).

Mason Davis continues to lead off for the Bulldogs, and has started to pick things up with the bat as of late (934 OPS in SoCon games). He is 13-16 in steal attempts and leads the team in runs scored, with 32.

Tyler Griffin has eight home runs for the Bulldogs, along with 30 runs batted in. He has been a mainstay in the batting order all season, appearing in each game, usually batting fifth. Of late he has been a bit strikeout-prone, but his overall production has been good (902 OPS).

In general, it is hard to find too much fault with the offense. At times I think the Bulldogs have been too quick to play “little ball” (The Citadel has 41 sacrifice bunts this season), but it’s hard to argue with the overall results.

The pitching hasn’t been great, but the 5.64 team ERA in SoCon play is perhaps a bit deceiving. Well, it’s deceiving in both directions…

The Citadel’s peripheral pitching statistics are actually better than last year in a couple of key categories. The K/9 rate overall is 6.85, and that rises to 7.36 in league games (it was 5.65 in SoCon action last year). The BB/9 rate is 4.01 overall, 3.33 in conference games.

Bulldog pitchers have been more homer-prone in SoCon play this year, already allowing 10 in just 12 league contests. Last season, The Citadel only allowed 17 home runs in 30 conference games.

That still doesn’t quite explain the increase in team ERA. Defensive issues could explain it, but then things get complicated. Actually, let’s talk about the defense right now.

Defensive efficiency is the rate in which balls put into play are converted into outs by a team’s defense. The Citadel’s overall defensive efficiency so far this season is .690, which is actually almost exactly the same as the overall DER last year (.687). Through 12 SoCon games (again, small sample size), the DER is .663, which isn’t great, but not too far off last season (.678).

I was puzzled at first when I ran the numbers, because they show that the Bulldogs are getting to batted balls in play at about the rate one would expect. Still, the team ERA is arguably higher than it should be, given the peripheral stats, and that doesn’t even take into account the unearned runs (22.75% of the runs scored by Bulldog opponents have been unearned). Then it dawned on me what the real problem with the defense has been, at least in league play.

The problem hasn’t been that the defense has allowed too many extra baserunners. The problem has been the defense once runners get on base.

I went back and looked at the play-by-play for all twelve SoCon games played so far this season. In those 12 games, the Bulldogs have committed 26 errors, a horrific total (their opponents have only committed 11 errors in those same contests).

However, what stands out is that twelve of those errors — almost half — were committed trying to pick off or throw out baserunners. In other words, the Bulldogs have been giving up a ton of extra bases by making bad throws. Pickoff attempts by the pitchers gone awry, overthrows from the outfield, infield singles in which the runner advances a base on a bad throw, etc.

In the Sunday game against Elon, the Bulldogs committed four errors, including three in one inning. Two of those errors in that inning were bad throws on pickoff attempts by the pitcher — and they were from two different pitchers.

I’ve heard of overaggressive baserunning, but I am starting to wonder if the Bulldogs have been guilty at times of overaggressive fielding. If The Citadel is to become a factor in the Southern Conference race down the stretch, that aspect of the team’s play must be fixed.

The Citadel also has to solidify its weekend starting rotation, which after Austin Pritcher is still a question mark. Pritcher, on the other hand, has been as dependable as ever. He has issued a few more walks than one would like, but has also managed to toss 48 2/3 innings so far this season without allowing a home run.

While the bullpen hasn’t been bad at all (and Zach Sherrill and David Rivera have done yeoman’s work, combining for 50 appearances), it is concerning that the only inning in which the Bulldogs have been outscored this season is the ninth — and that by a 16-3 count.

The Bulldogs have their work cut out for them this week, with four road games. On Tuesday, The Citadel makes its annual trip to Columbia to play South Carolina. Then the action moves to Statesboro for the weekend, with three games against Georgia Southern. The Eagles are 9-5 in league play, which is currently good enough for second place in a tightly bunched Southern Conference.

The following week features four home games. Tony Skole brings his ETSU squad to Charleston for a weekday game, and Appalachian State is the weekend opponent for a three-game conference series.

It’s the time of year when seasons begin to wax or wane. Let’s hope the Bulldogs have a lot of life left in this year’s campaign.

Below are some pictures I took at Riley Park on Saturday, a 14-7 victory for the Bulldogs over Elon. The day was sunny but rather windy, a nice day for a game, though I prefer baseball games that don’t take more than three hours to play…

Riley Report: The Citadel’s 2013 baseball campaign begins (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a two-part preview of the upcoming season. For Part 1, click here: Link

Note: as I mentioned in Part 1, all statistics are for Southern Conference games only unless otherwise indicated.

This chart features the 2012 offensive statistics in league play for The Citadel’s returning players:

    AB      R   HR    BB      K      AVG     OBP     SLG     OPS
 Mason Davis 127 15 2 9 23 0.244 0.304 0.354 0.658
 Joe Jackson 117 22 1 16 17 0.308 0.396 0.462 0.858
 Bo Thompson 88 7 2 15 12 0.250 0.367 0.341 0.708
 D. DeKerlegand 73 13 0 7 18 0.192 0.291 0.260 0.551
 Bailey Rush 70 8 0 6 21 0.186 0.266 0.214 0.480
 Tyler Griffin 68 8 1 10 26 0.118 0.238 0.250 0.488
 Calvin Orth 55 5 1 1 10 0.291 0.298 0.400 0.698
 H. Armstrong 50 5 0 6 7 0.220 0.304 0.300 0.604
 J. Stokes 45 8 0 5 4 0.267 0.340 0.311 0.651
 Ryne Hardwick 9 2 0 2 3 0.111 0.273 0.222 0.495
 Zach Sherrill 2 1 0 1 0 0.500 0.667 1.000 1.667
 Ryan Kilgallen 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Totals 705 94 7 78 142 0.234 0.318 0.333 0.6517

Before I started compiling all these numbers, I would have said that one of the things The Citadel’s players needed to do was take more walks. However, I was surprised to find out that the returning Bulldogs actually had a higher percentage of  walks per at bat (11.1%) than the 2011 squad (9.1%), and a similar number to the 2010 title team (11.3%).

One thing that 2010 team did a lot was get hit by pitches, though (29 times in 30 league games).  The 2012 team was plunked 19 times (13 of those bruises were suffered by players on the current roster).

It’s also important to be careful about comparing pre- and post-BBCOR numbers. I think that in today’s game, it is even more important to take advantage of free passes, with power numbers and batting averages down throughout college baseball (though the best players can maintain high averages no matter what kind of stick is being wielded).

While there are some individual players who could stand to increase their walk totals, the bottom line is that to make a jump offensively the team as a whole needs to make more consistent hard contact, and improve those BAA/SLG categories to something approaching at least 2011 levels.

There is no question which position in the lineup needs to improve the most at the plate this season. That position would be…Designated Hitter.

I went through all 30 league games and totaled the numbers at the DH spot. The stats are not pretty. Numerous players manned the position last year, and the batting line wound up looking like this:


That is not a typo. The Bulldogs’ DH position had a 560 OPS in conference play. Almost 22% of the ABs resulted in strikeouts. The Citadel only got six extra base hits from its designated hitters in SoCon action (five doubles and a homer). Only one of those extra base hits came at Riley Park.

Fred Jordan’s biggest challenge among his position players may be to find the individual (or platoon) capable of handling DH duties on a regular basis, and producing the kind of offense one would expect from that spot in the order.

SoCon baserunning statistics of note:

The Citadel stole 42 out of 54 bases last season, for a success rate of 77.8%. That doesn’t count the five times Bulldog baserunners were picked off in league play.

Bulldog opponents stole 47 out of 60 bases in conference action (78.3%). There were nine pickoffs by The Citadel’s pitchers in conference action, including four by Austin Pritcher.

Both The Citadel and its opponents had success rates higher than the league average of 74.5%. Elon attempted the most steals in conference play (69), while UNCG only tried to swipe 30 bags. On the defensive side of things, the range was 30 (the number of steal attempts against Elon during the season) to an incredible 85 (against Georgia Southern, of which 70 were successful).

Pitching and defense are intertwined, but it’s possible to get some idea of a team’s defensive quality independent of its pitching.

In 2011, the Bulldogs had arguably their poorest fielding squad in over a decade, with a defensive efficiency rating of 63.2%, by far the worst in the SoCon. That included leading the league in errors (58 in 30 games). The Citadel turned 17 double plays in conference action.

In 2012, the glovework got a lot better. The Citadel’s DER was 67.8%, meaning the Bulldogs were making two or three more plays per game than they did in 2011. That’s a big difference. The standard defensive measures also reflected this improvement, as The Citadel only committed 39 errors in league play, and also turned 25 double plays in SoCon games.

That isn’t to say The Citadel can’t get better in the field. The Bulldogs actually were slightly below average defensively in the SoCon, per DER (the league average was 68.4%).

Nevertheless, it was a marked difference from the season before, and there is no real reason to worry about regression. As Jordan has noted, The Citadel has solid up-the-middle performers, and some observers believe the players at the corner spots have the potential to become excellent defenders as well. This is a group that will help its pitchers more often than not.

Incidentally, while I am concentrating on league statistics here, I did notice that The Citadel’s DER for the entirety of the 2012 season (58 games) was actually better than its league DER. The overall DER last season was 68.97%.

Here are the 2012 SoCon statistics for The Citadel’s returning pitchers:

      G     GS    IP      H      R    ER    HR       ERA       K/9     BB/9
 Austin Pritcher 10 10 67.0 73 33 26 2 3.49 5.51 2.28
 Logan Cribb 10 10 47.1 54 35 32 5 6.08 6.27 4.20
 Kevin Connell 9 6 30.1 37 17 13 2 3.86 3.26 5.98
 James Reeves 11 3 22.2 31 20 20 1 7.94 5.56 3.65
 Ross White 15 0 13.1 13 12 8 1 5.40 5.40 4.12
 Zach Sherrill 11 0 12.0 19 14 13 3 9.75 5.25 5.25
 Ryan Hines 16 0 22.1 20 5 5 0 2.01 2.82 2.44
 Brett Tompkins 6 0 8.1 9 5 3 0 3.24 5.40 3.33
 Connor Walsh 3 0 2.1 3 3 3 0 11.57 3.86 12.86
Totals 91 29 226 259 144 123 14 4.91 5.38 3.83

(Actual total of league innings worked by returning pitchers: 225 2/3. My chart had some issues, hence the “226” total listed.)

Austin Pritcher and Logan Cribb were in the rotation every weekend. One thing The Citadel will need this year is for its starting pitchers to go deeper into games. Last season, starters in conference action averaged just over five innings per start. If you take the starts by the dependable Pritcher out of the equation, the average dips even further, to under 4 1/3 innings per start.

Those non-Pritcher outings featured 39 walks in 85 1/3 innings by Bulldog starters — and only 47 strikeouts.

The walk rates were obviously too high, and must be lowered. They were not completely unmanageable (and among returning pitchers were actually not that much higher than the SoCon average of 3.77 BB/9), but typical Bulldog pitching staffs do not walk people at that rate. Teams that contend for league titles do not walk people at that rate.

I am particularly concerned with the strikeout totals, however. Having a 5.38 K/9 rate as a team is problematic. Pitchers need those strikeouts.

(For clarification, the K/9 rate for the team in league play last season, including pitchers no longer on the roster, was 5.65.)

It may be that punchouts are slightly less valuable in the post-BBCOR era because “pitching to contact” is more likely to be rewarded with an out, but it’s still important to restrict the number of batters who put the ball into play. There are occasionally pitchers capable of succeeding despite relatively low strikeout rates (Tommy John comes to mind), but they are atypical.

The coaching staff knows this, of course. After all, the pitching coach had a career K/9 of 11.63 when he was at The Citadel.

Actually, from watching the games last year at a safe distance, I got the impression that the coaches were very careful with what was a very young group of hurlers. Britt Reames wasn’t afraid to pull a starter early (which contributed to the  short duration of some of the starts). I’ve used the phrase “transition season” a lot to describe the 2012 season, and nothing reflects that description more than the way the pitchers were used. There was a lot of on-the-job training on the hill.

That’s not a bad thing if it results in sizable improvement, and Fred Jordan seems very confident about the prospects for this year’s pitching staff, which includes some talented freshmen.

I linked a couple of video Q-and-A sessions in the “Links of Interest” section of Part 1. They feature Jordan answering questions posed by media relations director (and crooner extraordinaire) Mike Hoffman. In the video focusing on pitching, Jordan discusses the possibility of having a freshman closer, among other things.

In that video, Jordan also mentions that Joe Jackson will shoulder even more of the catching load this season. It sounds like Jackson will catch all three games in a weekend series, plus a weekday game, perhaps getting a day off from his receiving duties when the Bulldogs play two weekday games.

It is vitally important that Jackson not get worn down over the course of the season. He was the only Bulldog regular to bat over .300 in SoCon play. His solid work with the bat, combined with his status as a catcher, is why Baseball America pegged him as the #8 pro prospect in the conference. Jackson participated in the Cape Cod League this summer, furthering his development and gaining valuable experience playing against outstanding competition.

Jackson won’t be the only returnee with expectations. I won’t go through the entire roster, but a few other names to follow:

– Educated Bulldog fans should make sure they time their trips to the concession stand so that they don’t miss Bo Thompson’s at bats. The sophomore from Mauldin is capable of producing monstrous, tape-measure home runs. He’s not afraid to take a walk, either. With more consistent hard contact, Thompson could conceivably become one of the league’s premier power hitters.

Mason Davis had a very respectable debut season, starting (and leading off) every game as a freshman. This year, he will be expected to get on base more often, which should lead to an increase in his stolen base totals.

– After a fine freshman campaign in 2011, Drew DeKerlegand struggled at the plate last season as a sophomore. The native of Texas will move to left field this year, which may help him return to the batting form he showed two years ago.

Those players and others are discussed in some depth in the school’s video Q-and-A about position players.

Last year was a banner season for the Southern Conference, which finished the season with an RPI that ranked seventh-best in the country. Three schools advanced to regional play.

The league should still be good in 2013, but it may take a small step back. Several squads are going to have to rebuild their weekend rotations, and two schools (Appalachian State and UNC-Greensboro) will have new coaches.

Most of the nation’s baseball cognoscenti are of the opinion that at least six teams could win the league. Baseball America gave its preseason nod to the College of Charleston, as did the SoCon media. College Baseball Today favors Western Carolina. College Baseball Daily and the league’s coaches like Elon.

The experts do not think much of The Citadel’s chances. Most observers put the Bulldogs in a second tier, with at least two outlets projecting the cadets to miss the SoCon tournament, despite all the returnees from a team that did make the tourney last season.

That is not unlike 1990, when The Citadel was the preseason choice to finish sixth in a seven-team league. The Bulldogs wound up tying for fifth…in the nation.

I won’t go so far as to say that will happen this season, but I could see The Citadel having a campaign not unlike it had in 1994, when after a tough start the team put everything together and went on a huge run that ended in the NCAAs. Like that squad, the 2013 outfit may need some time to jell, but I think it has the talent to make some major noise in the SoCon. (I would prefer not to have a repeat of the 1994 team’s 5-17 start, however.)

I can’t wait for the season to begin. There isn’t anything better than a day at the ballpark, especially when you’re rooting for a winning team.

I’m ready to root for a winning team again.