JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – With baseball season inching closer for Carson-Newman, this is the first of a three-part series that will assess the position groupings for coach Tom Griffin's unit starting with the infield with senior second baseman John Sharpe.
While the roster as a whole returns six of the top seven batters from the 2018 club, the infield provides the biggest missing piece in the team's leader at the plate, Brett Langhorne. The Tennessee transfer was selected in the 10th round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft by the Atlanta Braves.
In 101 games, the Mechiancsville, Va. Native posted a .325 batting average with 14 home runs, 75 RBIs, 84 runs scored and 37 stolen bases in 45 attempts producing a pair of All-South Atlantic Conference campaigns.
"It's hard to replace a guy like Brett Langhorne," Sharpe said. "For us, individually getting better and not one guy having to replace him but collectively upping our game. Brett was a great player for us and a guy we could really lean on when the game got tight."
Every day first baseman Colby Morgan is no longer with the program but C-N has plenty of options to fill those shoes. Mark Treadway (Friendsville, Tenn.) came on late in the season driving in 10 runs over the final couple weeks of the year. Kilian Daughtry (Simpsonville, S.C.) was the team's top pinch-hitting option and saw time at designated hitter. The program also welcomes back Malik Kyle (Jefferson City, Tenn.) after the left-handed hitter was groomed at Walters State the past two seasons.
Freshman Cade Burkey (Knoxville, Tenn.) also projects at first base after finishing his prep career at Farragut High School.
At second base, Sharpe led the team with 33 starts at the position notching a .289 batting average with four home runs and 28 RBIs. He had 14 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI outings hitting in several different slots in the lineup.
"I learned a lot," Sharpe said. "Coach Griff and coach [Brandon] Roberts really changed my game coming from junior college – working harder, being more vocal in the field, learning better with a two-strike approach. Griff completely changed my game for the better and taught me things that I had no idea what was going on. Before my approach was get up there and hit the ball. Now, he's taught me a lot of things about looking backside and having more pop this year."
Shortstop is locked down by sophomore Micah Genter (Jasper, Tenn.) as he started 40 games as a rookie a year ago. The switch hitter got hot late in the season posting a .279 batting average in April that included going 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored at Tusculum on April 21. He was also hit by a pitch 13 times, matching the program record.
"You can't say enough about Micah," Sharpe said. "He is one of the most sure-handed guys in the SAC right now. The ball gets hit to shortstop and you're really sure the play is going to be made. Micah is a guy that we know will show up to the field and get his work in."
Silva is seeing time at third base during practice after playing 12 total games a season ago, mostly as a defensive replacement. Also vying for a spot at the hot corner is Michael Wroth (Chicopee, Mass.). The Herkimer Community College transfer walloped 12 home runs with 43 RBIs while racking up a .500 on-base percentage last year for a team that that went 35-9 and had a 19-game winning streak.
The second part of the position previews will take a deep dive into the outfield with senior Brendan Campbell and a unit that returns ample talent. It will be released on Saturday.
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