2. USC AIKEN PACERS (42-13)

USC AIKEN PACERS (42-13)
The Pacers spent much of 2013 near the top of the DII rankings and completed the regular season as the Peach Belt Conference regular season champions. However like an attempt to take over the tri-state area by Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, Aiken’s postseason plan gloriously fell apart, going 0-2 in the PBC Tournament and 1-2 in the Southeast Regional for a much earlier than anticipated exit. Nevertheless, despite last season’s late shortcomings, expectations are high once again on campus for another successful season. Coach Kenny Thomas returns a stocked roster and a trip to Cary and the DII Baseball Championships will be the ultimate, and very obtainable, goal.

USC Aiken's Ty Barkell

USC Aiken’s Ty Barkell

The leading batsman back in Aiken is Ty Barkell whose 83 hits tied for the team lead and also tied him for the eighth-highest in the nation. He led the team in home runs with 10 and RBI with 56, both of which placed him in the top ten in the conference. Barkell will be rejoined in the lineup by last year’s PBC Freshman of the Year, Sean Miller. Miller started all 55 games for the Pacers at shortstop and batted .281 in his collegiate debut. Another welcomed weapon back in the Aiken lineup is second basemen Ryan Metzler. Metlzer tied for second on the club with seven home runs and was fourth in batting at .357. Coaches are also expecting a breakout performance from sophomore Tyler Moore who impressed in limited action last season. The speedy Moore, who swiped 13 of 14 bases and batted .384 in 86 at bats, is a threat to score every time he comes to the plate. The Pacers additionally added a pair of former DI bats in Matt Bosse from Maryland and TJ Costen from South Carolina. Both players are projected to be exceptional hitters and could compete for the Tino Martinez Award for top all around player. Bosse hit .261 at Maryland last season and Costen hit .259 in two seasons for the Gamecocks. Kody Belcher, a transfer from Kennesaw State, could also be a boon to the Pacer lineup.

The Pacers will have their ace hurler Derek Beasley back on the mound once again in 2014. The senior earned First Team PBC honors last year after compiling a 9-2 record with a 3.48 ERA and team leading 89 strikeouts.  His 9.39 K/9 IP was good for third in the conference. Rejoining Beasley on the staff will be Caleb Smith who dazzled as a freshman, earning a 1.82 ERA in 25 relief appearances with 38 strikeouts in just 24.2 innings. He also held opposition to a .179 batting average and only allowed a single extra-base hit. Danny Wiseman is another returning young arm who can get batters out in a hurry. Last season Wiseman struck out 31 batters in 23.2 innings and compiled a 4-0 record with a save in 24 appearances. If  Smith, Wiseman or another pitcher, such as Taylor Peed who struck out 10  batters in 11.2 innings last season, can emerge to pair with Beasley as a formidable one-two punch, the Pacers will find themselves at the top of rankings sooner than later.