30 NORTH ALABAMA LIONS (39-18)
2012 Final Ranking: 20
UNA started last season in the top ten and reached the number three position before ending the year in a tie for second place in the Gulf South Conference. The Lions were awarded the seventh seed in the South Regional for the second straight season, but failed to advance further as a pair of quick defeats concluded their season. A third consecutive trip to the extended postseason will not be easy for Head Coach Mike Keehn and the Lions. Graduation depleted the everyday lineup of some important bats, however several strong returning pitchers make North Alabama a team to watch once again.
For the Lions to be successful in 2013 they’ll need another big year from Tino Martinez Award candidate Chad Boughner. Boughner, a Florence native, has won 25 games so far in his college career and will be looking to build on last year’s numbers when he went 10-5 with a 2.75 ERA with 115 strikeouts. He’ll be backed by Michael Watkins who went 7-2 with a 4.86 ERA in his first year at UNA after transferring from Motlow St CC (home of the Bucks!). Coach Keehn will have a pair of solid bullpen hurlers back on the mound to keep the Lions competitive in the late innings as well. Brantley Claunch had a 7-1 record as UNA’s everyday workhouse, appearing in 31 games and earning a team leading 2.52 ERA. Ben Seabrook excelled as a freshman, compiling a school record 12 saves with a 2.66 ERA.
The starting lineup will once again have steady SS Josh Carpenter who batted .313 and OF Josh Doyle who hit .299 and stole 31 bases in 33 attempts last season in the heart of the order. Also back in purple and gold will be 1B Josh Cyr whose average dropped to .228 after hitting .314 in 2011, but he did lead the team with ten homeruns and was awarded a “Finest in the Field” Award by Rawlings following his play in the Northwood’s League over the summer. Another big potent bat belongs to 3B Andrew Almon who hit .301 in his first season as an everyday starter. The offense will be without Michael Schmidt who was one of best second basemen both offensively and defensively in the DII last season, but there is hope that Northwest CC transfer Bradley Noland can take off where Schmidt left off. Noland had two impressive years for the Rangers, tying for the batting crown in 2011 and winning it outright last season after hitting .362 with 19 stolen bases.