USC Beaufort

Rainouts have Sand Sharks eager to hit diamond

The season will start a little later -- and a little closer to home -- than expected for the 18th-ranked USC Beaufort baseball team.

After weather-related travel concerns canceled the Sand Sharks' trip to Tennessee over the weekend, wiping out a scheduled doubleheader against No. 16 Union (Tenn.) and a game against Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), USCB is now slated to open the season at 2 p.m. today at Claflin University in Orangeburg.

"It's so disappointing, because of all the rainouts, the first one is the least convenient," USCB coach Rick Sofield said. "A rainout's not always the worst thing, at times, but not in the opener. We're a bunch of caged animals who are sick and tired of practicing and ready to go do what we signed up for, and we can't even get out of the parking lot."

Junior left-hander Mike Heesch, a transfer from Illinois-Chicago, is slated to start against Claflin.

The Sand Sharks will return home Wednesday for their home-opener, a 2 p.m. start against No. 24 Brewton-Parker at the Richard Gray Baseball Complex in Hardeeville. Last year's ace, left-hander Adam Miller, is the scheduled starter.

USCB plays four more home games this weekend, facing Fisher (Mass.) College in doubleheaders starting at noon Saturday and Sunday. Right-hander Dexter Price, a transfer from Auburn, will start one of Saturday's games, and Heesch will make one start over the weekend, but the other two starters have not yet been determined, Sofield said.

SOFTBALL ASSISTANT HIRED

USCB has hired Laura Heberling as its assistant softball coach and associate director of athletic marketing, athletics director and head softball coach Ty Rietkovich said. Heberling played college softball at Young Harris College and UNC Pembroke, and she was an assistant softball coach at Iowa Wesleyan last season.

"Our main priority was to have someone with a great knowledge of pitching, someone to come in and be complimentary to myself," Rietkovich said. "I thought it was important to have somebody who had that kind of experience in the job, and Laura pitched in college and came highly recommended in that aspect."

Heberling will also take charge of gameday operations and sports information for the upcoming baseball season.

SOFTBALL RECRUITING WINDING DOWN

The Sand Sharks softball team is still a year away from its debut, but the inaugural roster is nearly complete. Rietkovich has signed 18 incoming freshmen and two junior college transfers, and two current USCB students have also signed on, leaving just three spots left on the preliminary roster of 25 players.

"We're a little thin on experience in a couple positions, and that's what we're going to focus on for those last few spots," Rietkovich said. "We have a well-rounded group with a lot of talent, and the girls know they're going to have to step it up for the next six months and be ready, because we're going to face some challenges."

Most of the new recruits have come from the region, with nine incoming freshmen and both junior college players coming from Georgia. Five incoming freshmen are from South Carolina, two are from North Carolina, one is from Florida and one is from California.

SOCCER SEARCH DELAYED

Rietkovich had hoped to announce the hiring of the school's first women's soccer coach this week, but he said the interview process was delayed because of one candidate's illness, meaning the hire probably won't be announced until late next week.

The position drew 23 applicants, Rietkovich said, including several college assistants looking and some head coaches.

"It was extremely overwhelming," Rietkovich said. "It's very gratifying to have people see what we're doing here and want to be a part of it."

Rietkovich said eight candidates were selected for in-person interviews.

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