GREENVILLE, NC Feb. 11, 2014 – When taking a look around the infield, the one spot that will not change in personnel is at the third base with All-Conference USA performer Zach Houchins. For the first time in many years, ninth-year head coach Billy Godwin has multiple options when penciling in his designated hitter, highlighted by a pair of newcomers in Bryce Harman and Reid Love.
Houchins returns to man the hot corner for the second-straight year for the Pirates. A middle of the order staple, the Wilson, N.C. native is an athletic fielder that can hit for average and power. His 2013 season got off to a slow start, but once he was locked in he became a tough out in the Pirates lineup. Houchins laced a team-best 18 doubles and two triples, while ranking second average (.317/60-for-189), home runs (five), RBI (42) and runs (34).
He closed out the season reaching base safely in 18-straight games and earned C-USA All-Tournament honors after hitting .500 (6-for-12) in ECU’s three games where he drove on four runs and scored three times. Houchins ranked among the C-USA leaders in doubles (2nd/18), slugging percentage (3rd/.513), RBI (sixth), and home runs (ninth), while nationally standing among the Top 100 in doubles per game (55th/0.35 pg), sac flies (61st/six), doubles (78th/18) and toughest to strikeout (97th/11.8)
Looking to back up Houchins at third is newcomer Cameron Snow from Riverside High School. An early commitment to the Pirates in 2012, Snow helped the Pirates to four-straight North Carolina state tournament appearances and a pair of PAC 6 Conference titles (2010, 2012). The Hillsbourgh, N.C. native was a four-time First-Team PAC 6 All-Conference selection, who batted .364 with two home runs, three doubles and 19 RBI. Snow has good hands, is a heads up player and is another versatile infielder that can play anywhere in the infield.
This year Godwin will have multiple options when looking at a designated hitter. Newcomers Bryce Harman and Reid Love could see a bulk of the action, while sophomore first baseman Luke Lowery and possibly senior Drew Reynolds can be penciled in on their off days.
Harman, who was taken in the 27th round of the 2013 MLB Draft (pick 826) by the Washington Nationals, was a two-way player for Lloyd C. Bird High School where he was a two-time Virginia All-State selection. As a four-year starter, Harman was a career .400 hitter with nine home runs and 90 RBI for the Skyhawks During his senior campaign he was an unanimous first-team all-state and all-conference selection where he batted .439 with 11 doubles and 28 walks.
Love, a Junior College Transfer from St. John’s River State College, is also a two-way player for the Pirates. A teammate of current Pirate right fielder Ian Townsend, Love helped the Vikings to a combined 61 wins from 2012-23 and the Mid-Florida Conference title in 2013. A career .316, Love laced 20 doubles, drove in 40 runs and scored 60 while with the Vikings. A right-handed hitter that can hit in the two-hole, Love will also see action in the outfield on his off days from pitching in the Pirates rotation, most likely a weekend starter.
Lowery, a power right-handed hitter, batted .304 (28-for-92) with four home runs, a double, two triples and drove in 14 runs during his rookie season. Standing at 6-2′ and 237 pounds, Lowery has a similar build to former Pirate Chase McDonald, and offensively could put up the same kind of numbers with more at-bats. The Midlothian, Va. native had a solid summer with the Wilson Tobs of the Coastal Plain League and is now learning how to hit, not just for power but also for average.
With his move to second base, Reynolds is unlikely to get a lot of at-bats as the Pirates DH. For the last two seasons he has held a top and middle of the order spot boasting a career .313 average with 21 doubles, three home runs, 37 RBI and 65 runs scored. Tabbed the preseason Conference USA Co-Player-of-the-Year, he earned Second-Team Collegiate Baseball All-America honors after leading the club with a .322 (68-for-211) average where he laced 13 doubles, drove in 22 runs and scored 30 a year ago.
Check back tomorrow when we take a look at outfield.