Jon Richard is one of the top returning pitchers from last season.
Feb. 16, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The Xavier baseball team will face tough competition in the 2012 season opener as the Musketeers travel to face the No. 4 Tar Heels of North Carolina in a three-game series beginning with a double-header Friday at 3 p.m. with the second game 40 minutes after the first. The series concludes Saturday at 1 p.m. with all games being played at UNC's new Boshamer Stadium.
XU is coming off its fifth-straight 20-win season and its second 30-win season in three years with a 30-27 record in 2011. The Musketeers also made their sixth-straight appearance in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. This season the Musketeers were picked to finish fourth in the conference in the A-10 preseason coaches' poll.
Xavier returns its starting weekend pitching rotation of redshirt sophomore Vinny Nittoli, junior Jon Richard, and redshirt junior Tyler Koors. The trio combined for a 17-11 overall record in 2011 with Nittoli leading the way with a 7-1 mark.
The Musketeers lost four key starting position players to graduation at the conclusion of the 2011 season, but the four returning starters should bring experience and the ability to swing the bat to a young squad. Redshirt junior Mark Elwell is one of four starting position players who should be in the lineup this season. Last year, Elwell posted a perfect fielding percentage as the starting left fielder. Sophomore Brian Bruening led all returnees with a .327 batting average in 2011, while junior Seth Willoughby earned a .326 batting average and leads all returnees with five home runs last season
North Carolina is ranked in several preseason polls including a No. 4 ranking in the USA Today poll. Last season, UNC posted a 51-16 overall record in 2011, culminating in a fifth-place finish at the 2011 College World Series. Tar Heel sophomore third baseman Colin Moran was named to the Perfect Game Preseason All-America Second Team. Last season he was named Perfect Game Freshman Hitter for posting a .335 average with a league-high 71 RBI to go along with 20 doubles and nine home runs.