COLUMBUS, Ga. – Fresh off a historic year, the Columbus State University baseball team will begin the 2017 season Thursday opening up a three-game series with Erskine. The series will take place at Burger King Stadium at Ragsdale Field.
The Cougars are coming off a 42-14 season capturing both the Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament championships for just the second time in program history. The Cougars also hosted the NCAA Southeast Regional at Burger King Stadium.
Head coach Greg Appleton returns for his 20th season at the helm of the program. Appleton enters the year just five wins shy of 700 with the Cougars and is one of the winningest active coaches in the nation.
Appleton will return four position players that saw action in 20 or more games and all three of last season’s weekend starters.
“I’m very excited to begin the season,” stated Appleton. “It has been a long offseason and I’m ready to see how the guys react to game situations.
“It should be an exciting season and we have a lot of young guys so we should keep getting better and better as the year goes on.”
Senior outfielder Tyler Fichter will be the most experienced of the returnees as he played in all but two games in 2016 hitting .359 with 56 runs scored while driving in 29 of his own. The speedster led the Cougars with 20 stolen bases and had a .423 on-base percentage.
Grant Berry and Justin Evans each made impacts during their freshman seasons in 2016. Berry hit .279 in 38 games scoring 31 runs, while Evans had five homers and 17 stolen bases. Evans also tossed over 10 innings on the mound posting a 4-1 record.
Switch-hitter Lake Hart also returns for the Cougars after splitting the catching duties a year ago. Hart hit .345 with five homers and 36 RBIs.
On the hill, first team All-PBC selection Brandon Koehler returns for his senior season. The righty went 10-1 last year becoming the first Cougar 10-game winner in six seasons. Albert Harless and Caleb Kutsche also return after starting 15 and 13 games, respectively. Harless went 7-2 tossing a complete game during the year, while Kutsche was 4-1 tossing over 70 innings.
Luke Porter, who made 15 appearances including six starts, also returns after going 6-1. Six other Cougar pitchers return who had experience in 2016, including lefty Kolton Ingram who made 19 appearances out of the bullpen.
The 2017 season will be the 47th in program history with the Cougars needing just four wins to reach 1,600 all-time. CSU has a .641 all-time winning percentage.