A Paine baseball team seeking leadership found a coach of the year at just the right time.
Kerby Marshall enters as the Lions’ new head coach after recording 30 or more wins in four of his six years at Edward Waters College, culminating in an NAIA Unaffiliated Conference Coach of the Year award last year. His new challenge is a young but unbalanced Lions team featuring a stable offense and little pitching.
“A lot of people say I have to rebuild the program, but I’m looking to win my first year,” Marshall said. “I look forward to going in and being competitive.”
The Lions are coming off an 18-26 season last year, including 11-10 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. They will rely on an offense that returns four of its top five hitters according to on-base percentage. The team will expect further on-base production from junior middle infielder Michael-Cole Thames, who hit .324 with a .435 on-base percentage and .455 slugging percentage last season. Junior outfielder Zach Drummond hit .309 last season with a .434 on-base percentage, along with a team-leading 15 stolen bases.
Paine’s offense posted high on-base numbers last season, recording a .403 on-base percentage with 233 walks. Its top six hitters all had on-base marks of more than .400, and four of those batters had more walks than strikeouts.
“I think we have a scrappy team,” junior William Van Winkle said. “I think we’ll all hit and spread the ball pretty good. We have a lot of speed and some gap power, too, so I feel like we’ll be able to move runners this year. I think our offense will be the biggest attribute on the team.”
Marshall added some pop to the lineup with junior transfers Van Winkle, a 6-foot-4 corner-infielder (Edward Waters), Jarell Williams and Darren Stokes. Luis Serrano is a switch-hitting catcher who hit .532 at Edward Waters last year.
While Paine’s offense is expected to lead the team, Marshall is inheriting a pitching staff that failed to produce a starter with an ERA of less than 5.00 last year. Dalton Self returns as the projected No. 1 starter after recording a 5.81 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 105.1 innings last season. Fellow sophomore Chris Hallett also returns for his second season after recording a 7.03 ERA as a freshman. Left-handed freshman Cameron McConnell is projected to be a member of the starting staff, as well.