JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With the beginning of the 2016 season looming for Carson-Newman baseball, the athletic communications department will look at the position previews beginning with a look at the infield with senior third basemen Brandon Roberts (Davie, Fla.).
Two infielders will need to be replaced from the 2015 squad as first basemen Evan Jurjevic and shortstop Bryan Everhart graduated.
Jurjevic had one of the best seasons in recent memory for Carson-Newman a year ago hitting .358 with 37 RBIs and 21 doubles, the fourth-most by a C-N player since joining Division II in 1994. He reached base in 43 consecutive games to conclude the season failing to reach base safely in just one of the team's 46 outings on the year.
Everhart was a three-year starter at shortstop racking up 157 starts while driving in 79 runs and hitting .257 during his career. He was one of three players to start all 46 games last season joining Jurjevic and fellow departed senior Bo Ausmus.
"They were great guys who represented our program really well and were also great baseball players," Roberts said. "We are definitely going to miss their bats. We'll also miss their presence and their leadership. We also have guys coming in this year that will fill in."
Roberts has been the starting third basemen since he walked on campus having made 132 starts in his first three seasons compiling a .275 career average. His junior season a breakout year as he hit .302 with five home runs and 24 RBIs. In the final moth of the season, April, Roberts hit .396 at the plate and drove in 11 runs. The Davie, Fla. native led the team with nine stolen bases and racked up 13 multi-hit and seven multi-RBI games.
"I've really been taking the [leadership] role seriously," Roberts said. "Just trying to keep everybody accountable for everything that they do. Trying to teach them that every day you have to do something to make yourself better. You have to be better today than you were yesterday."
At shortstop junior Jimmy Rice (Middlesex, N.J.) is the frontrunner for the spot transferring from Mercer County Community College where he hit .300 with three home runs and 22 RBIs.
Catawba Valley Community College transfer Trever Lee (Garner, N.C.) is seeking the starting role at second base as he hit .281 with three home runs, 21 RBIs and 11 stolen bases for the Redhawks in 2015.
At first base junior Paul Kirby (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) comes from Columbia State Community College to try to fill Jurjevic's shoes. In two seasons at Columbia State, Kirby hit .339 and .271 respectively while clubbing six dingers and totaling 57 RBIs. In 2015, Kirby had seven multi-hit games.
The backup at first base, sophomore Cade Snapp (Seymour, Tenn.), expects to be the team's designated hitter this season. Snapp was held to 20 games in his first year after suffering a shoulder injury. The sophomore hit .271 on the year with four home runs.
His best day at the plate came on March 3 as Snapp went 2-for-3 with two home runs, seven RBIs and three runs scored in a 14-3 win v. Bluefield State to become the first player since Jeff Lockwood in 2010 to notch seven RBIs in a contest.
Coach Tom Griffin has a plethora of options on the bench in the infield including three returners from last year. Sophomore Austin Kearney (Powell, Tenn.) can play first or third base and was a DH at times last season hitting .235 in 18 games.
In the middle infield junior Eric Lynch (Boonton, N.J.) hit .275 last season driving in 12 runs and tallying eight multi-hit games. Junior Joey Selitto (Newton, N.J.) provides a slick glove and hit .345 in 16 games for the Eagles in 2015.
Hinshaw is another Columbia St. transfer and Pung brings championship pedigree as he was a member of the 2015 Tennessee AAA state champion Hardin Valley Academy, the first in school history. Pung went 1-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored in a 10-2 victory over Farragut to bring home the title.
"I'm excited to see what they can do," Roberts said. "I'm excited to see what Jimmy Rice can do at shortstop. He's impressed me defensively. I like what we can do with our lineups with Paul Kirby at first, Austin Kearney, Cade Snapp. We can do a lot of different things with them playing first. At second base it's an everyday competition between four guys. The competition has been really good and I expect that to bring the best out of people."
Carson-Newman begins its season on Feb. 2 with a road trip to Limestone for a 2 p.m. first pitch. Broadcast coverage begins on the Eagle Sports Network at 1:50 p.m. with a pregame interview and starting lineups leading up to the initial toss.
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