A year after a school-record 41-win season and its first appearance in the Avista-NAIA World Series, the University of South Carolina Beaufort baseball team returns just one starter in the field and lost 16 players from last year's team -- including ace Michael Heesch, who has moved on to the minor leagues after being drafted by the Chicago Cubs.
As the Sand Sharks open the season Saturday with a doubleheader against Shawnee State at the Richard Gray Sports Complex in Hardeeville, the team is remarkably different, but the approach is the same.
"We don't pay attention to the expectations," said USC Beaufort head coach Bryan Lewallyn, set to coach his first game without the interim title he carried last season. "Last year, we were not picked in the preseason top 25 and were not picked at the top of the conference and we had an outstanding year. That's not something we really concern ourselves with."
How exactly the Sand Sharks' everyday lineup will shake out, Lewallyn admits he doesn't know.
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He says USC Beaufort will have to be a team that has good at-bats, as the team likely won't hit as many home runs this season.
Junior first baseman Erik Armstrong is the only returning starter among position players for the Sand Sharks. He started 51 games last year and hit .276 with 16 doubles, four home runs and 39 RBIs.
The rest of USC Beaufort's returning position players combined for just 10 starts last season.
"I don't think there's any question that Erik is the focus of this year's offense," Lewallyn said before Wednesday's practice. "We're going to surround him with some guys that we think are very capable. Where (the offense) comes from, we'll see. There are always some guys who surprise you and some who you think will do some stuff who don't pan out. We know our lineup opening day last year was not the same as it was for the World Series."
Lewallyn mentioned three specific newcomers he felt would make an impact in the everyday lineup: JJ Crespo, a redshirt freshman who will see significant time in the outfield; Nick Payne, a freshman catcher who probably will start opening day; and freshman Brandon Joyce, who should see a lot of time at several different positions.
The Sand Sharks won't be able to lean on Heesch for a lock-down win in every series this year. Lewallyn said there is no one like him on the roster.
"Those guys come around once in a career, and I truly mean that," Lewallyn said. "That doesn't take away anything from anybody I have on my staff or will have in the future, but those guys are few and far between."
But while the departure of Heesch (2.21 ERA, 9-3) and Adam Miller (2.98, 10-5) have left holes at the top of the rotation, Lewallyn pointed to Kyle McCullough, Junior Delatorre and Miles Galvin in saying that the Sand Sharks' pitching might actually be deeper this season.
"We've got some experience," he said. "Where those guys fit in, mixed with the new guys, I don't know. We'll try and figure that out over the next couple of weeks."
Shawnee State at USC Beaufort (DH)
Noon Saturday, Richard Gray Sports Complex, Hardeeville
Cost: $5 ($3 for seniors, military); students free
Series: USC Beaufort leads 2-1
Last meeting: USC Beaufort won two of three at home in 2010
About Shawnee State: Shawnee State is an NAIA school in Portsmouth, Ohio. The Bears went 33-25 last season.
USC BEAUFORT 2013 SCHEDULE
2 -- vs. Shawnee State University (DH), Noon, 3 p.m.
3 -- vs. Shawnee State University (DH), Noon, 3 p.m.
8 -- at Webber International University, 6 p.m.
9 -- at Webber International University, 3 p.m.
12 -- at Voorhees College, noon, 3 p.m.
15 -- vs. Embry-Riddle University, 3 p.m.
16 -- vs. Embry-Riddle University (DH), noon, 3 p.m.
19 -- vs. Brewton-Parker College (DH), 1 p.m., 4 p.m.
23 -- vs. Fisher College (DH), noon, 3 p.m.
24 -- vs. Fisher College (DH), noon, 3 p.m.
1 -- vs. Georgia Gwinnett, 2 p.m.
2 -- vs. Georgia Gwinnett (DH), noon, 3 p.m.
5 -- vs. Voorhees College, 2 p.m., 5 p.m.
8-- at Florida Memorial University, 2:30 p.m.
9 -- at Florida Memorial University (DH), 11 a.m., 2 p.m.
15 -- at Thomas University, 4 p.m.
16 -- at Thomas University (DH), 3 p.m.
19 -- at Brewton-Parker College (DH), 2 p.m., 5 p.m.
22 -- at Southeastern University, 7 p.m.
23 -- at Southeastern University, 3 p.m.
26 -- at Edward Waters (DH), 1 p.m., 4 p.m.
29 -- vs. Saint Thomas University, 2 p.m.
30 -- vs. Saint Thomas University (DH), noon, 3 p.m.
2 -- at Savannah State University, 5 p.m.
5 -- at Northwood University, 2:30 p.m.
6 -- at Northwood University, 11 a.m., 2 p.m.
12 -- vs. Ave Maria University, 2 p.m.
13 -- vs. Ave Maria University, 3 p.m.
19 -- vs. Warner University, 3 p.m.
20 -- vs. Warner University, noon, 3 p.m.
USC BEAUFORT 2013 ROSTER
1 Caleb Daniels RHP R-Fr.
2 Kyle Thompson OF R-So.
3 Andrew Barrineau RHP R-Sr.
4 Denzel Campbell OF R-Jr.
5 Matthew Graney LHP R-Sr.
6 Brandon Joyce C/INF Fr.
8 Ashly Morris INF So.
9 Blake Cilwick INF R-Jr
10 David Greene INF Sr.
11 Terry McClinton INF Sr.
12 Jon Andrews INF Jr.
13 Ryan Doeppel OF Sr.
14 Ryan Walker INF Jr.
15 C.J. Kelly RHP Jr.
17 Erik Armstrong INF Jr.
19 Mitchell Stewart INF Fr.
20 Luke Pritchett RHP R-Sr.
21 JJ Crespo OF R-Frf.
22 Mitchell Johnson C Sr.
23 Kyle McCullough RHP R-Sr.
24 Nick Payne C Fr.
26 Miles Galvin RHP Sr.
27 Hunter Englehart P Jr.
29 Kutler Lane RHP R-So.
30 David Hannan RHP Jr.
31 Alex Graham LHP R-Jr.
34 Ben Sauls RHP R-Jr.
39 Stephen Richards RHP R-Jr.
45 Junior Delatorre RHP So.
99 Bryce Hines RHP Jr.
RS Zack Daniels P Fr.
RS Mark Jones RHP Fr.
RS Charlie McGinnis INF/OF Fr.
RS Jack Zanine C/OF Fr.