Starting Pitching Gives Monarchs Strong Outlook For 2003

February 11, 2003
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Feb. 11, 2003

The Monarchs return 14 lettermen, and ten newcomers to the 2003 season roster. This includes a solid recruiting class and the return of a solid pitching staff that will face a schedule that features three teams who advanced to the NCAA Super Regional and two World Series participants from a year ago.

"I think we are much improved of last season. We've got solid pitching with quality starters returning," said Head Coach Tony Guzzo. "Our offense and defense will be much improved. We will be playing perhaps the most challenging schedule in school history, especially early in the season."

Pitching is a major part of the game of baseball and the key to the Monarchs success. ODU returns a solid group of arms led by Justin Verlander (Goochland, VA.), James Burok (Archbald, PA.) and senior Kevin Evans (Shamong, NJ.). Verlander hauled in almost every honor a freshman could get in 2002. He was the CAA Rookie of the Year, First Team Freshman All-American by COLLEGIATE BASEBALL and BASEBALL AMERICA, and was invited to tryout for Team USA.

Verlander won seven games, ranked second in the CAA in strikeouts with 137 and led the CAA with a 1.90 ERA. He fanned a school record 17 batters against James Madison. Burok and Evans both won five games for ODU last season. Evans has been a solid reliever. Guzzo's staff will also be counting on returnees, Donnie Smith (Portsmouth, VA.) and Rusty Hummel (Montgomery, NY)..

Leading the list of returning position players is senior catcher John Oehler (Audubon, NJ.), outfielder Brent Sollenberger (Chambersburg, Pa.), thirdbaseman Allen Strick (Glen Burnie, MD.), second baseman, Joe Moore (Woodbridge, Va.). Oehler caught all 53 games last year and was second on the team in hitting at .302. Sollenberger led the squad with a .316 batting average, runs scored with 40 and base hits with 62. The Monarchs will also be counting on returnees DeMarque Hairston, Brandon Le Noir (Ocala, FL.), Pedro Pena (Haverhill, MA.), Gary Lowther (Union City, CA.), Jess Schoendiest (Belcamp, MD.), red-shirt freshman Dana Arrowood ( Woodbridge, VA.). Lowther hit three homers in ODU's two victories against NCAA Super Regional participant Richmond last year.

The Monarch newcomers at the position slots are both true freshmen and junior college standouts. Junior College standouts include shortstop Michael Koppin (Stephen's County, GA.) from Truett-McConnell Junior College, and outfielder Derrick James (Terre Haute, IN.) from Southeastern Illinois Community College.

The freshman class includes Justin Gregula from Washington, PA., Jason Godin from Stafford, VA., Keith Hahn from Valley Stream, NY., Wayne Renfrow and Steven Harris from Virginia AAA semi-finalists Kellam High in Virginia Beach, VA., Ricky Shefka from Kinston, NC., and Willy Morales from Puerto Rico.

Once again the Monarchs will play another strong schedule featuring teams from the SEC, ACC, Big East, Conference USA, the Big 12 and the Atlantic 10. Old Dominion will play home and home with Duke, Richmond, N.C. State and Norfolk State. ODU will also play host in a three game series with Rutgers and NCAA participant Marist.

ODU will play in two tournaments; The Citadel's which will include games with Vanderbilt, Tennesse, and NCAA World Series finalist South Carolina, and N.C. State's tournament which will include games with the Wolfpack, Princeton and Oklahoma State. The Monarchs will also travel to World Series participant Clemson for a three-game series along with a two-game series at Charlotte.

On April 1, the Monarchs will play their annual game with the Norfolk Tides, AAA affiliate of the New York Mets in the Metrocall Scholarship game at Harbor Park.

The Colonial Athletic Association schedule will include a three-game home series with George Mason, UNC Wilmington, William and Mary and Towson. ODU will travel to CAA rivals Drexel and NCAA participants James Madison and VCU for three-game league series.

The CAA tournament will once again be in the Outer Banks town of Manteo, NC., at Coy Tillet Field, May 20-24.