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Hawks to use strong-arm methods for success

February 24, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

The Hagerstown Community College baseball team won't be any sneaking up on the opposition in 2009.

There won't be any slippers for Cinderella to wear this year after the Hawks emerged with a trip to the NJCAA Division I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. last May.

"We'll be more of a bull's-eye this year," said HCC coach Scott Jennings as he enters his ninth year. "You strive for respect and you want to embrace it. But now we won't sneak up on anyone."

HCC emerged out of Region XX and districts to get to Colorado where it went 2-2 and finished the year 42-19-1.

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Jennings isn't planning on using last year's success as an automatic renewal for 2009.

"It would be nice to ride the coattails and hope you go far, but you've got to go out and win on the field," he said. "Mentally, I think it helps the players that are back and we hope they use that as leadership with the freshmen."

Now, the Hawks are just chomping at the bit to get outside.

They'll hit the road Thursday for a doubleheader at Brunswick (N.C.), followed with another pair Friday at Southeastern (N.C.). After a game on Sunday at Germantown, the Hawks will try to get in a home doubleheader on March 3 against Harford before they head to the Cocoa Expo in Cocoa, Fla. for a 10-game swing.

HCC hasn't been out of doors since its 19-game fall slate in October.

"We're going out (today)," said Jennings. "You can't do anything inside with fly balls and you can only take so many grounders off wood floors."

Pitching was the backbone of HCC's late-season success last year. Jennings sees it as a strong point again for the Hawks with as many as six hurlers considered as starters.

South Hagerstown grad Spencer Cromer (8-2 with a 2.99 earned run average) and Kyle Briggs, (10-2, 2.81, 3 saves) are back in the fold as seasoned sophomores.

"They were two of the reasons we got to the World Series," said Jennings.

A third pitcher - Brent Bertschinger - should be an immense addition to the staff following his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He is a transfer from Western Carolina, sat out a year to recover and has signed a letter of intent to West Virginia University, where he will attend next year if his academic load is completed.

"(Bertschinger) throws 91-93 miles per hour, as hard as anyone we have," said Jennings.

Jennings will need a six-man rotation in Florida and choose from Brandon Knight (South Hagerstown), Craig Haupt (Boonsboro), Garrett Harrison (South Carroll), Billy Hayes (Millbrook, Va.) and Tim Ponn (Strasburg, Va.). Haupt saw limited action last year, pitching 15 innings in 12 relief appearances.

Jennings said North Hagerstown freshmen Colby Fisher and Kyle Hoffman will get looks.

"If they're not starting, they'll all be ready for any kind of relief duty or a spot start," said Jennings.

Adam Byram, a sophomore from Liberty via Allegany, will anchor the bullpen. The righty is a submarine-style thrower and will give a tough look to opposing batters.

"No one has a specific role and I think we've got a deep staff with quality arms," said Jennings.

Offensively, second baseman Matt Greene and right fielder Charles Johnson are the main returnees.

Greene was an all-district performer, hitting a team-leading .368, and led the Hawks in doubles and triples. He has signed a letter-of-intent at Prairie View A&M. Johnson hit .274 with nine homers, including a pair in the World Series.

Jennings also said the Hawks would be strong behind the plate as Justin Everhart, a former Hedgesville star who has transferred from Shepherd University, leads a group of four catchers.

Tommy Evans, a North Hagerstown grad who saw plenty of action last year, won't return until mid-season following shoulder surgery.

The Hawks will also feature shortstop Daniel Heatwole, a sophomore redshirt transfer from Ferrum College.

"I think the offense will be a work in progress and we'll have to manufacture runs, at least right now," said Jennings. "Tradition shows we've started slow and put it together half way through. We just want to keep our head above water in conference."

HCC BASEBALL SCHEDULE

Feb. 26at Brunswick (N.C.) 2, 3:30

Feb. 27at Southeastern (N.C.), 12

Mar. 1at Germantown, 12

Mar. 3Harford (2), 1

Mar. 7x-St. Lawrence College, 10

Mar. 7 x-North Iowa, 4

Mar. 8x-Sauk Valley CC, 1

Mar. 8x-Miami-Hamilton, 4

Mar. 9x-Rock Valley, 1

Mar. 10x-Abbotsford Cardinals, 10

Mar. 11x-Nassau CC, 12:30

Mar. 11x-UConn-Avery Point, 4

Mar. 12x-Jamestown CC, 10

Mar. 12x-North Iowa, 4

Mar. 15at Shenandoah, 2

Mar. 16Tompkins Cortland (2), 1

Mar. 17Northern Essex, Ma. (2), 1

Mar. 19Allegany, 3

Mar. 20Potomac State, 2

Mar. 21Cecil (2), 2

Mar. 23at Catonsville (2), 2

Mar. 24at Rockville, 3

Mar. 26Chesapeake, 3

Mar. 28at Prince Georges (2), 12

Mar. 29Alfred St. (2), 1

Mar. 31 at CSM, 4

Apr. 1Garrett, 3

Apr. 2Frederick, 3

Apr. 4Anne Arundel (2), 12

Apr. 7at Garrett, 3

Apr. 8Shenandoah, 3

Apr. 9Germantown, 3

Apr. 11Baltimore (2), 12

Apr. 13at Potomac State, 2

Apr. 14at Allegany, 3

Apr. 16Rockville, 3

Apr. 18Dundalk (2), 12

Apr. 21at Chesapeake, 3

Apr. 23at Frederick, 3

Apr. 25at Essex (2), 10

Apr. 26Monroe NY (2), 12

Apr. 28CSM, 3

x-at Cocoa Expo, Cocoa, Florida

TEAM ROSTER

Kameron Armacost; John Barrett; Brent Bertschinger; Kyle Briggs; Adam Brunk; John Byram; Neil Callahan;; Zach Cook; Spencer Cromer; Thomas Evans; Justin Everhart; Colby Fisher; Matt Greene; Garrett Harrison; Craig Haupt; Billy Hayes; Daniel Heatwole; Ryan Hecknauer; Kyle Hoffman; Charles Johnson; Brandon Knight; Nick Marcucci; Tim Ponn; Tay Slider; Travis Sluger; Zach Smith.

HEAD COACH: Scott Jennings.

ASSISTANTS: Marc Bluma, Mark Teson.

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