In the anticipation of the upcoming Major League Baseball season, college baseball has been rounding bases, slicing the gaps and working at full speed. Tom Riginos’ Winthrop Eagles are, as of April 7, 19-10 – the best start during his five-year run in Rock Hill.
The Eagles are currently fourth in the Big South Conference in hitting (.285), ERA (.371) and strikeouts (227). The offense is led by three transfers: Roger Gonzalez’s (Santa Fe Community College in Florida) with a team-leading .412 average, Anthony Paulsen (USC Sumter) hitting .333 and Brad Kaczka (Monroe Community College) hitting at a .367 clip. Plus, they hold a .973 fielding percentage, good for a three-way tie for first place in the conference.
Riginos spent eight years as an assistant and lead recruiter for Clemson’s legendary head coach Tom Leggett, primarily scouting players from his native Florida. Riginos, a former Stetson Hatter, is doing the same with Winthrop, plucking talent out of the Sunshine State like fresh oranges.
Four current Eagles hail from Florida: Freshman left-handed pitcher Freddie Sultan from Westin; Josh Strong, a senior left-handed pitcher out of Orlando; Ryan Owens, a right-handed 6-foot-3, 200-pound presence on the mound, from West Boca Raton; and Gonzalez, a switch-hitting catcher from Miami.
Winthrop has had some impressive wins, including taking two of three from Kent State to start the season. Thanks to Gonzalez’s three-run homer at Clemson, the Eagles helped Riginos beat his mentor 5-4 at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.
The Eagles also ended a 19-year drought to South Carolina, edging the Gamecocks 7-5 in 11 innings in Columbia. Winthrop defeated Big South power Coastal Carolina 3-0 as well.
After advancing to the conference championship game a year ago and adding a few more talented pieces, Riginos and his Eagles are poised to make another run at a Big South title and advance to their first NCAA tournament since 2006.
1995 baseball Eagles to be honored
Arguably the best baseball team in Winthrop history, the 1995 team will be honored April 18 when the Eagles host UNC Asheville.
Led by head coach Joe Hudak, the Eagles advanced to the the school’s first NCAA tournament. That team was loaded with players like All-American pitcher Bryan Link and the hitting of Tony Costantino, Jeff Cisar and Jeremy Keller.
The Eagles finished the season with a 41-17-2 record as they rose to No.24 in the national rankings. Proving their season was no fluke, the Eagles knocked off No.1 Florida State, won 27 of their last 33 games heading into NCAA play, and captured the regular-season Big South Conference title with an 18-6 record. They compiled a 24-5-2 home record. Their season ended with a loss to Alabama in the East Regional.
Crohan named Big South Pitcher of the Week
Sophomore pitcher Matt Crohan dominated perennial Big South power Coastal Carolina on March 29. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound lefty from Jamesport, N.Y., allowed just one hit, struck out 12 and walked three in eight innings of the 3-0 win – his longest outing of the year.
Crohan improved to 3-2 on the season while taking home Big South Pitcher of the Week for the week of March 23-29.
Nunn finishes strong
Though Winthrop’s bid to make consecutive NCAA tournament appearances came up short in the quarterfinals of the Big South Conference tournament, center Schaquilla Nunn made a name for herself outside of the conference.
The 6-foot-3 junior from Fayetteville, Ga., was ninth in the country in blocks with 3.6 per game, and her 11.1 rebounds per contest were good for 11th in the nation.
Nunn was the Eagles’ leader in blocks, rebounding and field goal percentage.
She was All-Big South first team and defensive player of the year. With Nunn leading the charge, Winthrop secured its fourth-straight winning season with a 17-13 overall mark and 13-7 conference record.
Rob Jones is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Rob? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.