COKER COBRAS (38-16)
The offseason left the Cobras looking like Gus Fring after his final visit to Hector Salamanca at Casa Tranquila – pretty good on one side, but full of holes on the other. Coker returns much of its starting lineup, including Fico Kondla, who was a finalist for the Josh Willingham Award, as well as several other important everyday players; however the team suffered significant losses to the pitching staff. Gone is MLB draft pick Zach Loraine who saved 15 games on the mound with a team leading 2.65 ERA (he also lead the team in extra base hits at the plate as a DH). Also missing are two starting pitchers who combined to win fifteen games and make 34 starts.
This all makes for an interesting upcoming season for Coker. Little was expected of the team headed into last season. Preseason coaches’ polls placed the team eighth in the nine team Conference Carolinas projections, yet the team put together a bunch of wins and rode a late season hot streak into the playoffs and made it to the final eight in Cary. As the school makes it way to a new conference it will be interesting to see which team shows up on the diamond in 2014. Will it be the team which struggled to reach .500 over the past decade or the aggressive, gritty, new edition which hustled out wins and finished the season a few wins away from being national champions?
Fico Kondla, the team’s leading hitter with a .418 batting average will be back on campus, as will his Thor-esque mane. In addition to leading the Cobra in batting Kondla was also tops in RBI with 50 and stolen bases with 24. He also impressively only stuck out eight times in 182 at bats which ranked him twelfth nationally in the top ten in toughest to strike out. Also returning is the left side of the infield in seniors T.J. Giczkowski and Shea Bell. Giczkowaski was second on the team in hitting at .358 and topped the team in having his name spelled incorrectly. Bell hit only .247, but he was solid with the mitt, only committed nine errors all season and stole 21 bases. Ernie Kirkwood gives Head Coach Dave Schmotzer another capable bat as he hit .314.
While many of the to arms from last year have moved on, Alex Herandez could develop to be top arm. As a freshman last season he went 6-2 with a 4.06 ERA while splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. While not overpowering, he limited free passes as he only walked 14 batters in 64.1 innings. Andrew Goot also split time between starting and relieving and put up good numbers in both. He was 8-0 with a 4.50 ERA and struck out 62 batters in 66 innings. Hunter Ressler is a returning lefty who will have to up his game if the Cobras are going to repeat as conference champs. He hurled in 14 games, making five starts and finished with a 1-1 record and 5.85 ERA. There are seven incoming freshman pitchers on the roster who will have to develop quickly. While many are talented and capable of keeping runners off the base paths they lack experience which could ultimately be Coker’s downfall this season.