By Dave Wagner
Veteran Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Phil Clabaugh is looking forward to a fresh start for his team in 2004.
The Greyhounds had a miserable time last season, going 12-39 overall and winning just four of their 24 Lone Star Conference South Division games. Clabaugh, who helped revive a defunct program at ENMU when he came to the school in 1992, admits he isn’t sure what to expect.
“This is a ‘who-knows-what’ team,” he said as the Hounds prepare to open the season with two games on Saturday and Sunday in the Southwest Shootout at Stephenville, Texas, hosted by Tarleton State. “We’ve got some pitchers who’ve toed the rubber in Lone Star Conference competition, and that’s good. But as far as position players, I’m not sure everyone is set.”
The Hounds will bank heavily on a pitching staff led by junior right-hander Trevor Davis (3-7, 4.81 ERA, four saves) and left-hander Ian Thurman-Kelly (1-7, 6.64), both of whom pitched well in a number of losing efforts last season.
Davis became the team’s closer in midseason when Eastern struggled to close out games, but could be the team’s No. 1 starter this year. He will start Saturday’s 9 a.m. (MST) opener at Stephenville against rival West Texas A&M.
“I think we’ve got a really good pitching staff,” said the 6-foot-4 Davis, who is from Evergreen, Colo. “I don’t know if our pitching staff is as deep as you’d like, but I think we’ve got some of the best arms in the conference.”
Davis said he’s looking forward to returning to the rotation.
“I like relieving, but I like starting too,” he said. “I like being able to get into a groove after the first couple of innings.”
Meantime, Thurman-Kelly is one of only two seniors. Other returnees who will be counted on are sophomore right-handers Kelly Crain (0-4, 10.03), Josh Sellers (3-3, 8.31) and Jesse Garcia-Perez (1-6, 6.15) and David Swinconos (1-1, 5.24). Swinconos, who pitched exclusively in relief last year, is the only lefty in that group.
Clabaugh is hoping two freshman righties, Keith Balderaz and Josh Stephenson, can provide depth.
Among the position players, the only player likely returning to the same position is senior right fielder Boyd Erickson (.309, 2 HR, 13 RBI), who missed the first half of last spring with an elbow injury.
Others key players back are junior outfielder Mark Wallace (.233, 5, 24) and sophomore first baseman Mike McDuffie (.311, 3, 29). But McDuffie is currently sitting out an indefinite team suspension, Clabaugh said, while Wallace will play more of a utility role in the infield this season, including some time at first.
Meantime, several junior college transfers have been added, led by junior catcher Brian Green, a member of Central Arizona’s NCJAA Division I national championship team in 2002. He has some big shoes to fill with the graduation of three-year starter Dallas McMann (.367, 8, 31 in 2003).