Who’s the Pack playing?
Mascot: Livestrong Enthusiasts | School Location: Farmville, VA | Conference: Big South
2023 Record: 2-6 (0-0, T-1st) | 2023 RPI Rank: 282
2022 Record: 20-33 (10-14, 8th) | 2022 RPI Rank: 227
2021 Record: 17-32 (10-25, 10th) | 2021 RPI Rank: 277
When? Where? How do I watch?
Location: Doak Field at Dail Park (Raleigh, NC)
Game Time(s): Tues, Feb 28 @ 3:00pm
TV: Tuesday (ACCNX)
Radio: The Varsity Network (Tuesday)
Tell me about this team
Okay, I promise I’ll stop copping out by referencing the preseason preview... but not just yet. There are two midweek games this week, give me a break!
The Lancers return contact machine rJR INF Eliot Dix (.876 OPS, 11.1 BB%, 13.9 K%), but lose their three other most impactful bats from a year ago. JR INF Hayden Harris (.723 OPS, 10.9 BB%, 17.6 K%) and former VCU transfer rSR INF Gregory Ryan (.812 OPS, 13.0 BB%, 29.0 K%) also return and should play much larger roles in the lineup. Those three returnees are the only ones who notched multiple home runs a year ago, and that combined total for them was just 11. Power will likely be an issue again. Without adding any transfer bats, the improvement will have to come from internal development. Among the freshmen, catchers Mason Balsis and Collin Hughes should get an early opportunity to contribute and improve the backstop position for the Lancers.
Even with the lineup needing a rebuild, the pitching staff will need to make the biggest step forward if Longwood is to find success in the Big South this year. Weekend rotation members rJR RHP Andrew Potojecki (6-6, 5.45 ERA, 67.2 IP, 7.0 BB%, 13.6 K%), SO LHP Kevin Warunek (4-4, 6.41 ERA, 53.1 IP, 8.0 BB%, 10.4 K%), and SR RHP Andrew Melnyk (2-5, 9.57 ERA, 36.2 IP, 11.7 BB%, 12.8 K%) all return, but none of those spots should be guaranteed. Redshirt-junior righty returnees Logan Berrier (0-3, 1 SV, 2.87 ERA, 37.2 IP, 8.6 BB%, 20.4 K%), Dominick D’Ercole (2-2, 4.95 ERA, 40.0 IP, 6.4 BB%, 19.1 K%), and Michael Tolson (0-2, 4 SV, 25.0 IP, 14.7 BB%, 23.9 K%) each flashed promise last year. Bethune-Cookman transfer JR RHP Brenton Fisher (2-3, 5 SV, 4.01 ERA, 24.2 IP, 9.1 BB%, 32.7 K%) should find a significant role on the staff after spending last summer with the Collegiate National Team. Freshmen RHP Wyatt Bunch and LHP Ethan Walker should get opportunities to contribute early.
Longwood started off the year with five straight losses (3-game sweep by Mount St. Mary’s and midweek losses to Virginia and North Carolina), before taking two-of-three against a bad Delaware State team last weekend. This was looking like it was going to be a tough year, and the start to the season is making it look like it might be worse than expected.
The good news is that the lineup has identified some really positive pieces that could help this team come Big South play and the starting rotation looks really good. The real issue right now is the bullpen that has one performer and a bunch of guys who have been knocked around a lot.
Who’s on the mound for these guys?
Wednesday: RHP Dylan Saale (JR)
3B Eliot Dix (rJR) - .407/.528/.593, 16.7 BB%, 8.3 K%, 3-4 SB. Two time 2nd Team All-Big South performer. Has some power, but swings more for contact - and to good measure. Tough out.
SS Gregory Ryan (rSR) - .367/.457/.767, 14.3 BB%, 17.1 K%, 1-1 SB. Started his college career at Pittsburgh before transfering to VCU for one season and on to Longwood in 2022. Has a good frame at 6’2, 200 lbs and the power is finally showing up this year.
LF Luis DeLeon (SR) - .389/.450/.667, 10.0 BB%, 10.0 K%, 1-1 SB. Former JUCO transfer who played two years at NC Central before the Eagles disbanded their baseball program, at which point he made his way to Longwood. Only played in one game last year, so his emergence this year has been a nice surprise even though he posted a .971 OPS in 63 games at Central.
RHP Dylan Saale (JR) - 0-1, 37.12 ERA, 2.2 IP, 8.7 BB%, 0.0 K%. Started last Tuesday’s game against Virginia and the coaching staff just let him sit out there and get destroyed. He gave up 6 runs over the first two innings and got the first out in the 3rd before the onslaught began. The coaches let him sit out there giving up five straight hits before he recorded another out, and then they let him give up another hit for good measure before giving the hook. Ugh. I feel for this kid. Anyways, Saale made 8 starts in 2021 as a freshman and pitched to a 4.47 ERA over 44.1 IP. He regressed last year and is not off to a good start this year.
LHP Andrew Melnyk (SR) - 0-0, 1.69 ERA, 5.1 IP, 5.3 BB%, 63.2 K%. The 6’6 lefty went from a bad starter last year to a light-out reliever so far this year. Granted, he didn’t have to face Virginia or UNC like a bunch of his fellow pitchers, but he’s put up some impressive numbers thus far.
RHP Brenton Fisher (JR) - 1-2, 27.00 ERA, 3.1 IP, 13.6 BB%, 4.5 K%. On his third school in three years now (like DeLeon, he was part of Central’s final baseball team in 2021) and came into this season with a lot of hype after spending some time this past summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team camp. The results... have been awful, and like Melnyk, he didn’t have to face UVA or UNC. Kind of impressive that he’s been the pitcher of record in all three of his appearances.
Quick! Fun Facts!
Longwood has produced one Major Leaguer in the school’s history: OF Michael Tucker (12 years in MLB with 7 different teams).
The Lancers last drafted player was in 2017 (INF Michael Osinski (31st round).
There are four players on the roster from the state of NC: rJR RHP Dominick D’Ercole (Middle Creek HS, Cary), JR RHP Ried Dittner (Apex Friendship HS, Apex), JR RHP Brenton Fisher (Voyager Academy, Durham), SR RHP Cole Taylor (Wanchese HS, Wanchese)
In the first ever meeting between these two programs back in 2006, NC State 1B Ryan Pond hit for the cycle in an 18-4 Wolfpack win.
Nothing against Longwood, but this isn’t a game that should have been on NC State’s schedule. Maybe the team can ride their weekend rotation to a solid year in the Big South, but there just aren’t enough arms to do it if those starters can’t go 7+ innings every time out.
Outcome: Wolfpack wins.