LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- With a wave of new faces and players moving into new roles, the Covenant baseball team looks to put the past two seasons behind them and bounce back in the 2019 campaign.
The Scots, under 13th-year head coach Doug Simons, begin the year on Friday at Oglethorpe in game one of a three-game set. The final two games of the series are slated for Saturday on Lookout Mountain starting at 12 p.m.
Picked 10th in the USA South preseason coaches' poll, Covenant returns four starting position players from last season to go along with its No. 1 weekend starting pitcher and a plethora of sophomore bullpen arms looking to build off solid rookie seasons.
The top three hitters from last year's squad have graduated, but the Scots have the bats ready to go this season. Junior CJ Edmond is the leading hitter returning as he batted .300 a season ago and was second on the team with his four home runs and 26 RBIs. Fellow junior Tyler Moore finished 2018 with a .294 average and 20 runs driven in. Seniors John Mitchell and Donny Lewis both hit over .300 in limited at-bats a season ago.
Senior Jonah Carignan and junior Ken Alexander both return after sharing much of the load behind the plate last season. Junior Brooks DuBose along with sophomores Trevor Grapenthin and Alex Gonzalez all saw significant playing time in the infield a year ago.
On the mound, senior Matt Reitz leads a young staff. Reitz finished his junior season strong and looks to carry that over to 2019 as he assumes the top spot in the rotation. The rest of the starting rotation is up for competition, but Simons has several arms that impressed at times last season.
Junior Jackson Heuer had his best season out of the bullpen last year, compiling a 4.28 ERA in 14 appearances. Sophomores Andrew Cline, Adam Carver, Conor Austin, and Tristen Green all had solid outings during their freshman seasons and could factor into starting or bullpen roles this year.
A total of 13 newcomers join the Scots this season. Freshman catcher Ken Burke and freshman infielder Hunter Christian could see early playing time, but Simons is excited about his entire class and what they bring to the team.
After opening the season at Oglethorpe, Covenant will play 12 straight home games through the month of February and into March. Included in that stretch is an early season conference test in Maryville as the northern Scots visit for a three-game series on Feb. 22-23 to open league play.
The Scots will face off against some new opponents this season as Wheaton (March 1-2), Wittenberg (March 5), and Calvin (March 20) all come to Lookout Mountain.
In conference play, Covenant will have crucial road series at two-time defending USA South champion LaGrange (March 22-23) and a trip to Piedmont (April 5-6). At home, the Scots will host Huntingdon (March 29-30) and N.C. Wesleyan (April 19-20).
The USA South Tournament is scheduled to begin on April 25 in LaGrange, Ga., with the top eight teams qualifying.
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