Image credit: Campbell celebrates last season (Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Campbell will look to win the Big South for the third straight season in 2020, and while outfielder Matthew Barefoot and righthander Seth Johnson are both gone, the team looks strong enough on both sides of the ball to make it happen.
There are a number of exciting contenders in the conference though, including Winthrop, High Point, Radford—which is now under the direction of former Virginia pitching coach Karl Kuhn—and Presbyterian, which is loaded with high-upside athletes.
Player of the Year: JD Mundy, 1B, Radford.
Mundy spent two seasons at Virginia Tech before transferring to Radford for his junior season. He last year started 56 games for Radford and was a first team all-Big South selection after hitting .304/.412/.588 with 13 home runs in his Big South debut. A physical, 6-foot, 210-pound lefthanded hitter, Mundy is one of the most feared bats in the conference and after leading Radford in home runs and RBIs (55) a season ago, is poised for another big season in 2020.
Pitcher of the Year: Ryan Chasse, RHP, Campbell.
Five pitchers from Campbell have been drafted in the last five years, including three in a strong 2019 class, headlined by righthander Seth Johnson. While Chasse won’t be eligible for another year, he figures to have another strong season after a dominant freshman campaign in 2019. Chasse went 7-2, 2.95 in 15 starts last season, striking out 58 batters and walking 27 in 76.1 innings of work. He became the third Campbell freshman to win the league’s rookie of the year award and his performance in-conference was even more impressive, with a 1.91 ERA and a conference-best .150 opposing batting average.
Freshman of the Year: Ethan Fewell, C, Winthrop.
Fewell has impressed the coaching staff already in his short time with the Eagles, and should be an immediate contributor to the lineup in his first season in college. Already 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Fewell has power potential and at Academic Magnet High (North Charleston, S.C.) he hit over .500 with 12 doubles and five triples in his senior season.
Predicted Order of Finish (2019 record)
1. Campbell (37-21, 19-7)
Campbell has won the Big South in each of the last two seasons and is coming off a 2019 season in which the team led the conference with a 4.18 ERA. However, they’ll go into 2020 needing to replace righthanders Seth Johnson, Michael Horrell and Tyson Messer after all three signed in the draft. Ryan Chasse was brilliant in his debut, though, and brings his 76.1 innings and 2.95 ERA back. Junior college transfers Jonathan Beymer and Cam Kowan will be relied upon as well. The good news is Campbell brings back its conference-leading offense, with leading hitter Spencer Packard back for his senior season, along with Collin Wolf and Koby Collins, who were fifth and sixth in hitting a year ago. Outfielder Matthew Barefoot will be missed, but Campbell should have enough pieces to sustain a strong offense without him.
2. Winthrop (34-23, 18-9)
Winthrop has won 30 or more games in two of the last three seasons. It will look to make the leap this season, and bring back key hitters up the middle who helped the team lead the Big South in hitting a year ago. Senior catcher Spencer Yankle is back after hitting .326/.397/.471 with five homers in 2019, while senior center fielder Scout McFalls has started each season and is one of the better defenders in the conference. The same could be said of Tyler Baker, who posted a .968 fielding percentage last year and will be as reliable a shortstop as any. Improvement is needed on the mound after a 5.47 team ERA a season ago. The team brings back Colten Rendon who was a reliable closer, and will look for lefthander Thad Harris and righthander Tyler Jones to take big steps forward this spring.
3. Radford (30-27, 19-8)
Radford has a new head coach in the 2020 season, with Karl Kuhn manning the ship after spending 16 years as Virginia’s pitching coach. Kuhn will look to translate his consistent success with Virginia’s pitching to Radford, which finished third in the conference with a 4.71 team ERA a season ago. He’ll have to do that without the team’s three 2019 leaders in innings, though having redshirt senior Ryan Sande healthy after missing last season is big. Sande has been extremely consistent in his three seasons with Radford, posting a 3.69 ERA over 127 innings as both a starter and reliever. JD Mundy, Adam Whitacre and David Bryant are key offensive players returning, and Mundy is the preseason favorite for player of the year. It’s a solid core to build around offensively with a number of experienced juniors and seniors to rely on, but perhaps a bit more questions about the pitching. Kuhn should be as equipped as anyone to handle that.
4. High Point (27-27, 14-13)
Only Campbell had a better pitching staff than High Point in the 2019 season, and the Panthers return plenty of innings this season. Three seniors should make up the weekend rotation: Harrison Smith, Joe Johnson and Muhammed Eid. Smith posted a 2.57 ERA in 12 starts and 64 innings while Johnson and Eid bring back almost 100 innings in experience from last year alone. The team also returns senior righthander Grey Lyttle, who will be a reliable closer. Junior second baseman Travis Holt and sophomore outfielder Brady Pearre are reliable bats coming back, while juco transfer Trevor Omahen will take care of shortstop. Improvement from young sophomores like catcher Brian Rall, first baseman AJ Holcomb and Trent Harris are key for the success of the offense.
5. Presbyterian (30-29, 16-11)
Presbyterian brings an athletic group of position players and upside arms to the pitching staff for 2020. Senior second baseman Jimmy Marcelli is the best hitter returning from the 2019 club and will be the key to the offense this year. How the athletes around him hit will determine how far this club goes. Center fielder Zacchaeus Rasberry has impressive speed and power and last season set the program record with 23 stolen bases, while senior third baseman Garrett Jones and freshman shortstop Landon Shaw are both rangey with upside at the plate. Senior righty Eric Miles doesn’t have overwhelming stuff but locates three pitches effectively and is a reliable No. 1, while senior lefty Jake Rice has a fastball up to 94 and big potential if he can stay healthy.
6. Gardner-Webb (25-26, 14-13)
Following last season, Rusty Stroupe retired after 17 years as Gardner-Webb coach. He is the winningest coach in program history. GWU hired Jim Chester to take over the program. Chester spent the last 14 years as head coach at Division II Barton (N.C.) and will look carry his success into Division I. The Runnin’ Bulldogs bring plenty of experience to the weekend rotation and have athleticism in the lineup, but some question marks about the bullpen. Seniors Landon Mitchell and Isaac Campbell will form a 1-2 punch in the rotation after leading the team in innings last season, while junior Moah Davis will round out the staff and look to improve on his 7.45 ERA from a season ago. The team will need to replace its three leading hitters from last year, as Justin Kunz, Corey Howard and Chandler Redmond are all gone. The three were the only qualified hitters to hit over .300, so it’s a big ask, but junior college transfers Keiji Parkhurst and Joe Brazil should be solid additions, as should second baseman Cam Pearcey, who hit .308/.383/.457 in his redshirt-junior season with Coastal Carolina last year.
7. Charleston Southern (23-36, 11-16)
The Buccaneers were a middle of the pack offensive team a year ago, but they have a chance to take a step forward in 2020, with seven starters returning, including senior first baseman Ryan Stoudemire, who led the team with 14 home runs. Outfielder Kyle Sandstrom had to sit out a season ago but is a good defender with above-average hitting potential, while catcher Christian Maggio was limited to just 10 games thanks to an injury. There’s a lot of potential on the mound as well. Friday night starter Jaret Bennett is back for his senior season, while sophomore righthander RJ Petit will transition into a starting role after a First Team All-Big South season last year in the bullpen. Virginia Tech transfer Connor Yoder will round out the weekend rotation after being used frequently in relief for the Hokies.
8. South Carolina-Upstate (23-30, 9-17)
After finishing just shy of double-digit conference wins a season ago, South Carolina-Upstate should be a strong defense club this season. The team will run out three infielders who can handle shortstop, led by senior Jason Matthews, who is the best defender of the group and also a table-setter offensively. Matthews will be flanked by freshman second baseman Garrett Stevens and junior college transfer Cam Macintosh, who could also be the team’s best offensive player. There’s plenty of experience on the mound, with junior Jordan Marks, senior Sean Hupp and sophomore Ben Ferrer projected to be the weekend starters.
9. UNC Asheville (16-36, 9-18)
UNCA will be interesting for scouts from a player perspective, as the conference’s top prospect will throw for the bulldogs this season. Righthander Blake Brown will slot into the team’s No. 1 pitching spot, and evaluators will be watching throughout the season, while younger players like sophomore lefthander Jacob Edwards and freshman righthander Ryan Douglass will fill out the weekend rotation. Senior third baseman Brandon Lankford is back as the main source of power for the team—he hit 15 home runs in 2019, the only player with more than six—while junior transfer Easton Jones could help him out in that area after hitting 12 home runs for Brunswick (N.C.) JC last season.
10. Longwood (11-41, 5-22)
Longwood will need vast improvement on both sides of the ball to be competitive in 2020, after finishing last in runs (220) and team ERA (7.52) a season ago. Senior shortstop Antwan Tucker is back after leading the team’s offense and hitting .297/.376/.420. He’ll be a threat on the bases after going 13-for-14 in steals last year. Likewise, the team’s top pitcher is back in senior righthander Tyler Morgan (2-6, 3.86), but more players will need to step up around them.
Top 2020 Draft Prospects
1. Blake Brown, RHP, UNC Asheville
2. Jonathan Beymer, RHP, Campbell
3. Connor Yoder, RHP, Charleston Southern
4. Isaac Campbell, RHP, Gardner-Webb
5. Harrison Smith, RHP, High Point
6. Jordan Marks, RHP, South Carolina-Upstate
7. Spencer Yankle, C, Winthrop
8. Cam Cowan, RHP, Campbell
9. Cam Pearcey, 2B, Gardner-Webb
10. Zacchaeus Raspberry, OF, Presbyterian