ALABAMA HUNTSVILLE CHARGERS (33-15-1)
Despite having an accomplished season and finishing the year second in the conference standings, the Chargers finished the season losing four of their last five games, including two-and-out in the Gulf South Conference Tournament. The subsequent slip in the South Region rankings required rooting for Delta State to win the GSC’s automatic bid to keep the Chargers’ extended postseason hopes alive. It didn’t happen as Valdosta State upset DSU and took the conference’s automatic bid. This season the Chargers may not need a nail-biting watch-and-hope final day as they could wrap up a bid early and not have to sweat out the selections. Head Coach Hunter Royer will have GSC Player of the Year and three time All American Chandler Brock back in the lineup along with a number of other highly productive bats as well as half of last year’s starting rotation and a handful of other experienced arms.
The Chargers’ lineup is one of the most talented in the nation, with capable batsmen up and down the order. Last year the club hit .319 against the strong arms of the GSC and the number will likely rise this year with the talented group of players back on the diamond. The aforementioned Chandler Brock is the best of the bunch. Last year Brock hit .423 and also led the team in RBI, total bases, home runs and stolen bases. Brock, who also is a skilled defenseman who earned a gold glove, was listed as a top NECBL prospect by Baseball America after a successful summer season. Senior shortstop Blake Massey hit .301 in 2013, tied for the team lead with 17 extra base hits and earned All GSC First Team honors. Also back in Huntsville are Jud Sherrill and Justin Riddle. Sherrill hit .336 last year after transferring from Wallace State and Riddle, who was plagued by injury last season, was second on the team in batting at .355 in 2012. Cody Burton, who batted .311 and was the team leader with 47 runs, and valuable infielder Chase Handley who hit .318 will also back in blue. Ben Hall from Central Alabama and Ryan Barnes from Lurleen B. Wallace Community College are a pair of transfers who could break the opening day lineup.
The Charger’s pitching staff isn’t nearly as formable as the lineup on paper, but it could be. The development of young arms to compliment the returning upperclassmen will be key for a deep postseason run for the Chargers – especially in the bullpen. Saves were earned in only four of UAH’s 33 wins last season and no pitcher had more than one.
Two of last year’s starters will be back on the mound in 2014 and both can be dominating. Alex Aultman led the team in wins with a 7-1 record and added a nice 2.99 ERA while holding opposition to a .228 batting average. Drew Eiland was a Preseason All-South Region First Team before the season but his ERA ballooned from 3.58 to 5.68 for the year. If he regains his sophomore form in which he pitched 110.2 innings and went 8-4, he’ll challenge for GSC Pitcher of the Year honors. Other returning arms include Luke Mould and Codey Paulson. Mould made sixteen appearances out of the bullpen and had a 2.20 ERA while holding opposing teams to a dainty .194 batting average. Paulson appeared in 14 games and struck out 18 batters in 16.2 innings. Tyler Howell, a transfer from Jefferson Davis Community College may join the rotation after winning seven games for the Warhawks with a 3.89 ERA and 60 strikeouts.