HARTSVILLE, S.C. – He doesn't like to give much away, but head baseball coach Dave Schmotzer is excited about his team. The veteran coach, now in his 20th season at Coker, knows this year's club could be special.
Coker returns a good chunk of players from last year's starting lineup. The addition of some transfer students and freshmen give some added depth. In fact, Schmotzer says they are at least two deep at every position. And, as always, there's healthy competition at nearly every spot.
"We've got guys pushing each other each and every day," Schmotzer said. "The starting spots will be given to those individuals who have earned it."
Along with the returning position players, the Cobras bring back several pitchers. Key starters Andrew Goot, Dan Meyer and Tyler Witzel all return. Junior college transfer Zach Loraine, a Collegiate Baseball magazine "Player to Watch," joins the staff this season and is expected to contribute immediately.
"Those three will be counted on for leadership," Schmotzer said. "But, to me, every member of the senior class serves as a captain. They are expected to lead this team, and it should trickle down all the way to the freshmen."
Leadership is a big strength for this year's squad, but it may not outweigh the chemistry. While a roster of 44 players may not be the easiest to bring together, the 2013 club seems to be a close-knit group.
"I really like the clubhouse," Schmotzer said. "I can't stress the importance of that enough. They seem to care – plus they're coachable – and that stems from the guys who have been here awhile."
Schmotzer also feels an extra sense of excitement with the addition of two new coaches. Along with second-year assistant Ricky Meinhold, the team's pitching coach, Robert Skinner and Don Amaral join the staff. Skinner's duties include working with the infielders and some hitting instruction. Amaral works with the catchers and also helps out with the offense.
"I have a great staff," Schmotzer says. "I can't say enough good things about them."
Everything is in place for the Cobras to make a run at the conference tournament. They have pitching, hitting, defense and depth – keys for any successful team. Beyond these, execution and staying healthy are likely to be important difference-makers for the Cobras this year.
"All you want as you go into the season is a feeling in your stomach that you have a chance," said Schmotzer. "I have that feeling – the butterflies and the tenacity. It's a journey, man, and I'm excited to get it all started."
Coker begins its season with a weekend series at Chowan University in North Carolina on Feb. 2.