Every year, the University of the Cumberlands (UC) baseball program goes into the season expecting to be one of the nation's elite teams and compete for a spot in the NAIA World Series in Idaho. Expectations for the 2014 season are no different with a core group of players returning and a highly touted recruiting class joining them that is expected to make an immediate impact. The Patriots are out to make a statement this season that they are not to be overlooked in the Mid-South Conference (MSC) and are driven by a hunger to be the best.
Over the last 12 seasons since Head Coach Brad Shelton took over the program, the Patriots have won over 420 games, claimed 3 Mid-South Conference (MSC) Regular Season Championships, and a MSC Tournament Championship. The team has also competed in 5 NAIA Regional Tournaments; also known as the opening round of the NAIA Tournament.
The Patriots will be a brand new team on the mound in 2014 as they return only 29 innings of in-game experience from the previous season. Sophomore Cameron Smith (Louisville, KY) is looking to have a breakout season after pitching 15 innings with a 4.20 ERA in 2013.
Incoming transfers that will bring a veteran presence to the mound include Ricky Osorio (New Mexico Junior College), Kevin Schubert (South Florida Community College), Jesse Foulk (Kansas City Community College), Tyler Kilgore (Cleveland State Community College), and J.C. Campo (Salt Lake City Community College).
The lone returner out of the bullpen for the Patriots is senior Claudio Valencia (Yuma, AZ). Claudio had a successful 2013 campaign as the Patriots' closer tallying 5 saves in 14 innings of work with a 2.57 ERA.
Coming back to join the bullpen off a redshirt 2013 season is junior Cole Stickler (Crossville, TN) and junior Kody Baker (London, KY) along with transfers Jake Wakeland (Kellogg Community College), Anthony Webster (St. Petersburg Community College), Jeff Rivera (Connor State Community College), Mathias Brewers (Indiana University Southeast), and TJ Campbell (West Texas Community College).
The outfield returns one starter from the 2013 season; senior centerfielder Hibraim Cordova (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico) who was named to the 2013 MSC 2nd Team. Cordova started 52 games last season hitting .306 with 49 hits (19 doubles, 4 homeruns), 39 RBI's, 40 runs scored, and 23 stolen bases. Other returners with experience include Matt Madrigal (LeMoore, CA) who played in 15 games and Stone Osborne (Owenton, KY) who played in 26 games last season for UC.
Coming back to the outfield off a redshirt season in 2013 is Jeremy Conley (Florence, KY) along with transfer Lucas Bagnara (South Florida Community College), freshman Trent Abner (South Laurel High School), and freshman Austin Rieck (Glenn Este High School).
Returning in the infield for the Patriots is senior Jared Martin (Cynthiana, KY), Claudio Valencia, senior Ryan Johnson (Goodlettsville, TN), senior Blake Castator (Hamilton, OH), junior Jake Goodman (Elizabethtown, KY), and sophomore Ryan Palenzuela (Miami, FL). Martin heads into the season looking to add to his stellar career after hitting .247 with 46 hits, 27 RBI's, 28 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases. Valencia comes into the season after being named an All MSC 1st Team performer in which he hit .375 with 69 hits (13 doubles, 3 triples), 42 RBI's, 28 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases. Johnson looks to provide a bigger role in the '14 season after hitting .261 with 23 hits, 10 RBI's, and 11 runs scored in 39 games. Goodman looks for a breakout year after hitting .245 with 26 hits, 16 RBI's, and 13 runs scored. Palenzuela will add depth after a successful freshmen campaign hitting .348.
Newcomers to the infield are transfers Luis Hernandez (New Mexico Junior College) and Lucas Bagnara.
The Patriots return junior Zach McRoberts (Hillsboro, KY), junior Alberto Mejia (Santo Dominbo, Dominican Republic), and junior Darrell King (Pine Knot, KY) who is coming off a red-shirt. In the 2013 season, McRoberts hit .283 with 17 hits, 12 RBI's, and a .980 fielding percentage in 25 games.
Joining the Patriots catchers are transfer Keith Tidwell (Martin Methodist College) and freshmen Matthew Trimble (Lafayette High School).
Coach Brad Shelton returns for his 13th season as the Head Coach of the Patriots and has high expectations for his team heading into the 2014 season. The Patriots return 4 starters and many guys that gained valuable experience last season. Mix in the talented recruiting class brought in by the coaching staff and the future looks bright for the Patriots as they are primed to make a deep run into the postseason. During Coach Shelton's tenure, UC has had tremendous success winning 423 games in his first 12 seasons while losing only 242 games (.636 winning percentage). Overall in his 18 seasons as a head coach, he has won 610 games.
The competition will be fierce for the Patriots in 2014 as the 55 game schedule consists of 9 games against teams ranked in the NAIA Top 25. Three of the games will be against (#10) Cumberland University, three against (#15) Lindsey Wilson College, and three against (#23) Georgetown College.
The Patriots will spend much of the season at home in 2014 as they host 31 of their 55 games at Doyle Buhl Stadium.