BUIES CREEK – Campbell Baseball enters a new era on Friday as the team enters the 2012 season, the first in the program's return to the Big South Conference. The athletic program was a charter member of the Big South Conference from 1983-1994 prior to joining the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Fighting Camels will begin this year's campaign on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., welcoming Marist to Taylor Field for a three-game set. The two teams will also square off in a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
Head baseball coach Greg Goff and his coaching staff welcomed 17 newcomers to campus this past fall to join the 18 returners from the 2011 squad as the Camels look to improve upon the 17-37 finish from a year ago.
Campbell will have 20 of its first 23 games at home before entering conference play, giving fans multiple opportunities to come out and see the team play. "I'm really excited about our schedule and the number of home games that we have," Goff said. "With the first phase of our new stadium complete with the new entrance, concession stand and bathrooms, we're excited to our fans the opportunity to come out two or three times a week and catch the Camels at home."
The Camels return five of the team's top eight batters from last season. Josh Holskey (Roanoke, Va.) returns as a four-year player who batted .359 while starting 52 games for the orange and black last season. The Roanoke, Va. native had 70 hits, 14 doubles, six home runs and 42 RBI for Campbell during his junior season.
Ben Fish (Rocky Mount, N.C.), Jimmy Brenneman (West Chester, Ohio) and Bryce Grady (Kinston, N.C.) all batted over .300 in more than 110 at-bats last season for the Camels. Brenneman was 26-of-30 on stolen base attempts last season and also led Campbell with a .493 on base percentage.
CU also returns its top five pitchers from a season ago, three starters and two relief pitchers. Ryan Koopman (Tipp City, Ohio) led all Camel arms with 88.1 innings pitched in 2011, finishing with a 3-10 mark and 6.01 ERA as a freshman. Frank Zier (Frederick, Md.) had a team-best 5.74 ERA in 62.2 innings pitched, earning a 2-5 won/loss record in 14 starts during his junior season. Ryan Mattes (Virginia Beach, Va.) was 3-1 with a 6.12 ERA in 22 relief appearnces and two starts.
Marist arrives in Buies Creek as the preseason favorite to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference after finishing 35-17 in 2011. Sophomore right-hander Kevin McCarthy was named the conference's number two prospect and senior Chad Gallagher was listed as the number five best prospect in the conference.