WINSTON SALEM STATE RAMS (39-13)
The Rams are one of DII baseball toughest teams to rank. Last season WSSU absolutely crushed Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association competition, concluding the regular season with a 20-1 conference record. However, the Rams were only a good-but-not-great 19-12 against other non-CIAA foes. Yet again, two of the Rams out-of-conference wins were against nationally ranked Millersville and included a win over draft pick Tim Mayza. Nonetheless the Rams’s accomplishments on the diamond didn’t go unnoticed. WSSU earned its first-ever national ranking late in the season and was awarded the second seed and hosting duties for the Atlantic Regional. The Rams went 1-2 in the regional to have their season come to a close. The roster will have a makeover in 2014 with several key players moving on; however Head Coach Kevin Ritsche believes that this year’s club will be even better than last season’s record breaking club. Six talented transfers and the return of a closer from Tommy John surgery make WSSU a team to watch in 2014.
Replacing All American Travis Moore, who stole 45 bases and hit a team leading .391 will not be easy, but Coach Ritsche believes the returning players combined with an outstanding recruiting class will be able to take the team to the next level. The top two hitters back from last year’s club are second baseman Rafael Gonzalez and third sacker Levi Grassley. Gonzalez hit .352 for the season with a team leading 57 RBI. Grassley was second on the team with a .375 average and led the Rams with 19 doubles. The Rams also welcome back former Western Carolina transfer Connor Andrus. Andrus has the potential for a monster season at the plate while providing a solid presence behind the plate. A pair of transfers are expected to contribute offensively right away. Jacob “Bull” Barber, a catcher and designated hitter transfer from Surry Community College, is expected to yield one of the Rams’ most potent bats. Barber led the team in homeruns and was the defensive MVP for the Knights last season. Raymond Crawford started at third base for UNC Greensboro last spring but is expected to roam the outfield while blistering baseballs for WSSU. Crawford batted .287 and .279 in his two seasons for the Spartans.
Power arms were added to the front and back of the rotation to compliment returning pitchers to give WSSU an edge on the mound. Jordan Carlton showed promise as a freshman, earning a 6-1 record with 55 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. He will be complimented at the top of the rotation by Ryan Mayhew, a transfer from UNC-Wilmington. In high school Mayhew fanned 255 batters in 140 innings with a 1.90 ERA. Aaron Hatch, a transfer from across the country from Everett Community College, should find his way into the Ram rotation. While pitching for the Trojans last spring, Hatch had a 2.47 ERA and struck out 51 batters in 54.2 innings while only issuing 17 walks. Another transfer, Wes Haselback pitched 75.2 innings at Surry CC last season, striking out 73 batters with a 2.74 ERA. Scott Wells and Devin McLemore are returning Rams who will be major contributors as well. Wells was 6-2 last season with a 3.99 ERA. McLemore was a medical redshirt in 2013 but will be ready to play this season. Although he was the Rams everyday third baseman as a freshman, McLemore and his 90’s fastball will be headed to the mound, possibly as the club’s closer. JR Wright, who appeared in 14 games last season to throw 21.1 innings, has been mentioned as making major strides over the offseason and will be a valuable member of the bullpen.