EMORY, Va. – Trey McCall is entering his 13th season as the Head Coach of the Emory & Henry College Baseball Team. Last season, the Wasps saw an increase in offensive output thanks in part to veteran leadership and young talent. This year, E&H will returns two All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference performers in juniors Carson Bryant (Hickory, N.C.) and Holden Watkins (Ridgeway, Va.), who will look to dominate the diamond once again.
Bryant, an All-ODAC Second Team selection at first base, batted .331 with 47 hits, 18 runs scored and three home runs. Watkins, who was selected to the All-ODAC Third Team as a shortstop, was second on the squad in batting average (.333) and hit two home runs during his sophomore campaign, slugging .451 with an on-base percentage of .386. Watkins brings a 14-game hitting streak into this season.
The Wasps return four seniors this spring, three of whom are pitchers. Garrett Butler (Knoxville, Tenn.) led the team in starts with 12 and led the E&H in innings pitched (68), strikeouts (39), and complete games (two). Butler will likely continue as a weekend starter for Emory & Henry. Nick Lesnak (Blountville, Tenn.) saw action in ten games, starting three, and led the squad in strikeouts per nine innings (6.67), while picking up two victories. Ryan Mullins (Wise, Va.) appeared in six games as a relief pitcher, tallying three strikeouts. Hunter Jeffries (Hickory, N.C.) hit .291 from his spot as a second baseman, putting up 34 hits, six doubles, twelve runs, and four stolen bases.
Along with Bryant and Watkins, the Wasps have six other juniors that will be integral to the success of the 2017 campaign. Josh Macek (Concord, N.C.) is dynamic in the outfield, boasting a .991 fielding percentage. Pitcher Jacob Collins (Wytheville, Va.) appeared in nine games and struck out four batters. Chris Benton (Blountville, Tenn.) played in 11 games behind the plate and hit .241 on the season. C.J. Martinez (Raleigh, N.C.), Zack Smith (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Daniel Huff (Rougemont, N.C.) will all be counted on to add depth to the team.
Last season's freshman class contributed in big time roles. Eli Straw (Radford, Va.) was second on the team in home runs with four and saw action in 37 games at third base. Gavin Felty (Bristol, Va.) led the team with five wins, pitching two complete games and totaled 33 strikeouts. Ben Sexton (Lebanon, Va.) started 33 games in left field and tallied 30 hits. Connor Stevenson (Stephens City, Va.) was the Wasps' go-to catcher, playing in 25 games with a .992 fielding percentage. Daulton Horne (Bristol, Va.) and Ross French (Bridgewater, Va.) played in 24 and 19 games as infielders, respectively. Logan Forster (Christiansburg, Va.) struck out 15 batters in 21.2 innings. With this many young players contributing to the team last season, the Wasps surely have a bright future in the ODAC.
In addition to the depth that Emory & Henry already possesses, McCall welcomes 13 freshmen this season which will assist in the goal of reaching the ODAC Tournament. The key, as always will be execution by the pitching staff, and with five new pitchers coming into the fold, the Wasps will likely have depth both in 2017 and in years to come.
The Wasps' first game is Friday, February 10 at Covenant. Emory & Henry will open at home with a doubleheader against Johnson University on Saturday, February 25.