UNA OPENS BASEBALL SEASON WEDNESDAY
The University of North Alabama baseball team opens its 2010 season on Wednesday (Feb. 10) with a team that
may be a bit of a mystery to Lion fans, but its one that head coach Mike Keehn feels has the potential to be a
UNA lost 15 lettermen, including seven position starters, and pitchers that started 33 of the team's 52 games
a year ago. That team went 32-20 in its first season with Keehn at the helm of the program, marking the
program's 26th consecutive winning season.
The Lions open their 2010 season on the road at Harding Wednesday with a double-header at noon. UNA will play its home
opener on Saturday, Feb. 13 at1 p.m. with a double-header against Bellarmine.
Entering 2010, the lone starters back for UNA in the field are senior Chase Porch of Blue Springs, Miss., and
senior Dewayne Gunn of Tuscumbia, and they will likely be starting at different positions this spring. Porch, a
designated hitter and first baseman last season, is set to start in centerfield this year. Gunn, an All-Gulf South
Conference pick at second base, is now the front runner to start at third.
The Lions return five pitchers, including seven-game winner Chad Boughner (7-2) and closer Mitch Handley,
who was 3-2 with eight saves.
"I feel more comfortable with our pitching staff than I did last year, and I feel like this team is already closer,
as a whole, than we were a year ago," said Keehn. "Early in the year we will have to rely on our pitching and
defense to get people out while our offense takes shape," he said. "It will be an ongoing process at the plate,
and we will try some different lineups to see what matches."
As a team last season, UNA hit .337 and averaged 7.2 runs per game. Keehn says those numbers could be
hard to match.
"We should have a solid hitting team and we should be able to use our team speed as we have in the past, but
we won't have a lot of room for error early on. We'll need to pitch well and play good defense."
While the Lions do have a veteran pitching staff, Keehn said there will be some adjustments. Boughner, a
sophomore from Florence, is still in the rehabilitation process after surgery but should be back by March,
according to Keehn. Handley, a senior from Grain Valley, Mo., will move from the bullpen into the starting
rotation, as will junior Trey Mitchell of Florence. Keehn said he expects newcomers Will Rankin of Hartselle, Ala., Drake
Gregory of Columbus, Miss., Drew Clark of Muscle Shoals, Ala. and Neil Brown of Gardendale, Ala., to battle for starting spots. Junior Patrick Hinton of Corinth, Miss., is slated as the Lions'
In the outfield, Porch is the projected starter in centerfield after hitting .327 with five home runs and 43 runs batted in last season. Others expected to battle for starting positions are senior Ross Parker of Hatton, Ala., senior Jacob Lamar of Rogersville, Ala., and junior Jared Mothershed of Tuscumbia, Ala.
In the infield, senior Kevin Williams of Corinth, Miss., is the front-runner at first base and may also be used in the DH spot. Freshman Josh Cyr of Huntsville, Ala., and redshirt freshman Zach Summy of Florence, Ala., will also be in the mix at first base.
Mothershed and Gunn could both see playing time at second, and a pair of newcomers, Nick McGregor of Pontotoc, Miss., and Blake Stroth of Topeka, Kan., will battle for the starting job at shortstop.
Gunn should start at third, with Cyr and freshman Andrew Almon of Florence also pushing for playing time.
Senior Jordan Wakefield of Collierville, Tenn., should start behind the plate. He hit .200 last season and threw out 10 runners on stolen base attempts. Junior transfer Blake Sanders of Troy, Ala., will also see action at catcher.
North Alabama's home schedule is not as extensive as in some past seasons, but the Bellarmine series is part of a 28-game home schedule for the Lions at Mike Lane Field, where UNA has
won more than 80 percent of its games in 26 seasons. UNA will have home Gulf South Conference series
against West Georgia, Valdosta State and Alabama-Huntsville. The Lions will face West Florida and West
Alabama on the road. With just six members in the GSC East Division this season after Montevallo left the conference, UNA will have just 15 league games. "Not playing as many GSC games as we have in the past will make it tougher," said Keehn. "If you slip up, there will be little room for error and less of an opportunity to make it up later in the season. That will make every game even more important, and weather could have a major impact if it knocks out some games."
In addition to the Lions' 15 designated GSC games, UNA will also play 17 games GSC West Division schools
as non-conference contests. Other non-conference opponents include Bellarmine, Cumberland, Wisconsin-
Parkside, Montevallo, Quincy, Lambuth, Union and Martin Methodist.