|February 18th– Division 1 Weekend Preview
A Beautiful Sight- College Baseball is Officially Back for eXposure Alumni
All of college baseball is officially in swing beginning tomorrow as Division 1 programs will begin their seasons on their track to Omaha, Nebraska. They will follow the D-2, D-3, NAIA, and JUCO programs who have already began their 2021 campaigns. With college baseball gearing up, that means there are a lot of eXposure alumni to keep track of throughout the entirety of the season. As always eXposure Baseball will be providing updates on all their alums of all levels through social media, alumni report, weekend previews, and “The Rundown with eXposure Baseball” podcast.
With a very abbreviated and chaotic opening weekend ahead with COVID protocols along with the addition of winter weather, schedules have been morphed into something at least familiar and we can at last appreciate that college baseball is officially back. As always, eXposure Baseball sends immense talent to the next level and this season will be a mix of returning veterans and also over 100 players who will be making their collegiate debuts across college baseball.
Let’s dive in and take a look at some proven college players poised to have big 2021 seasons.
Pre-season All-American John Rhodes and the Kentucky Wildcats will be sidelined this weekend with COVID protocols and will begin their season next Tuesday against Miami Ohio in Lexington. Rhodes who was named Co-Freshman of the Year in 2020 after hitting .426 will be a mainstay in the middle of the lineup for the Kentucky Wildcats. Also, for Kentucky will be coveted Freshman and Perfect Game High School All-American, Ryan Hagenow, who will make his collegiate debut early for the Wildcats this season.
Parker Noland returns for his second campaign for Vanderbilt University after a strong Freshman season in 2020. Noland started 14 games in the shortened season and was tied for third with 11 RBI including 5 multi-hit games. Noland who is an athletic and versatile player brings experience and big left handed bat to the table for the commodores.
Kragen Kechely from Dallas Baptist is returning for his Senior campaign and looking to solidify himself in the record books for the Patriots. Kechely is poised to end the year as the school’s all-time leader in appearances and also is climbing the record books in strikeouts per nine innings with 9.6. The Patriots take on Austin Peay beginning Saturday with a doubleheader.
Rykker Tom and Brayson Hurdsman look to push Utah out to a fast start as they are currently looking for an opponent for opening weekend because of a cancellation from UTSA pertaining to the winter storm that struck the Texas area. (Update: Playing Cal State Fullerton beginning Saturday) Rykker Tom who is a 3-year starter for the Utes at third base with a career batting average of .285 looks to do more of the same this season. Brayson Hurdsman has moved his home threads from the University of Houston where he had an extraordinarily strong career, back to his home state as a graduate transfer. Coming off a career of 140 innings for the Cougars, Hurdsman will be a force in the bullpen for the Utes as he was in Houston.
Jake Hagenow who has been a mainstay for MTSU is returning for his Junior campaign for the Blue Raiders. He has shown versatility in being able to go behind the dish, man first base, and even play the corner outfield spots. MTSU opens with Oakland out of Michigan this weekend beginning Saturday. Along with Hagenow, Peyton Wiggington will be looked once again to be a force in the weekend rotation for MTSU. Wiggington who was off to a strong start in the 2020 shortened season with a 3.58 ERA and a dominant performance at North Carolina where he went 7.2 innings and giving up just 5 hits and one run, will look to get off to a similar start this weekend.
Maddux Houghton and Chaz Bertolani are returning to man the talented group for the Lipscomb Bisons in Nashville, TN. Houghton (OF) and Bertolani (C) were both who were named a Pre-Season All-Conference, look to be the guiding force this weekend as Lipscomb is set to take on Murray State beginning on Saturday. Houghton who swung it at a .337 clip in year 2 with 33 RBI and 20 stolen bases looks to have an encore of those results for the 2021 campaign. Bertolani who was hitting a robust .364 in a COVID-shortened season will again take the reins behind the plate and anchor the Bisons.
Cameron Chick returns to Lincoln, Nebraska for his 3rd year after being off to a strong start in 2020. Chick was boasting a .297 AVG with 4 HR and 14 RBI when the season was cut short. He looks to continue that trend and anchor the Huskers infield.
Blake Davis returns to his normal territory, behind the plate, for UT-Martin this season where has been a mainstay for 3 years. He currently ranks 3rd all-time in school history with 879 putouts and has started 120 consecutive games for the Skyhawks. Samford will welcome UT-Martin to town this weekend in Birmingham, AL.
Belmont University will have a familiar face in the outfield this season as John Behrends will be returning for his Junior season where has been a 2-year starter for the Bruins. Behrends was hitting .306 last season when the season was cut short and also added 9 stolen bases which was co-leader in the OVC at the time. The Bruins will open beginning Saturday against Illinois State in Nashville.
Santi Montiel who is one of the top returning SS in the country looks to have breakout year for the Jaguars. Montiel hit .296 with 5 HR and fielded .962 in his lone full season. South Alabama opens up with SEMO Friday in Mobile, Alabama.
St. Johns will be welcoming back Freshman All-American, Sonny Fauci, to the roster this season. The RHP was off to an untouchable start in 2020 having a 0.00 ERA in 12.2 innings while adding 9 strikeouts. He looks to continue that beginning February 26thwhen St. Johns is set to take on UMASS Lowell.
Evan Russell, Camden Sewell and graduate transfer Jackson Greer will look to anchor the leadership roles for the Volunteers this season in Knoxville. Russell who has been a leader for the Vols with 98 starts in his career returns for his Junior season. Evan hit .274 with 11 doubles and 6 HRs in his last full season for the Volunteers. Camden Sewell also returns for Tennessee this year after boasting video game numbers in his Freshman campaign where he amounted a 4-1 record with 2.18 ERA (lowest in school history as a Freshman) in 45 innings pitched. And lastly, Jackson Greer will suit up for the Orange and White as a graduate transfer after a storied career at ETSU. Greer in his last full season finished with a .314 AVG with 15 doubles, 10 HR, and 42 RBI. Tennessee opens this season in Statesboro, Georgia taking on Georgia Southern.
ETSU will be welcoming Northern Kentucky to town beginning Saturday where they boast a plethora of eXposure alumni. Ashton King, Ethan Cady, Bryce Hodge, and Sean Kearney look to have huge offensive years for the Bucs while Matthew Mercer, Owen Kovacs, and Landon Smiddy look to big forces on the mound.
These names above are just a pinch of those who will be suiting up and competing at the next level this season. 2021 will be a definite breath of fresh air as we will be taking in eXposure alumni competing at the highest levels. One thing that we will note is that there will be obvious schedule changes, cancellations, and postponements. However, after 2020 I believe we can all agree that we will take any ounce we can get. Check here for updates on the above players along with tons more who were not mentioned including veterans and Freshman making their collegiate debuts this season. As always we have you covered with all thing’s eXposure Baseball.