CAA Baseball Tournament preview

Brandon Sans, Staff Writer

While many may point to UNC Wilmington’s 11-16 record on April 4 before going 17-11 the rest of the way as the biggest struggle the Seahawks have dealt with over the past year, don’t tell that to senior Casey Golden (.306, 18 HR, 36 RBI).

If you ask do ask the newly minted CAA Player of the Year, he’ll tell you about how last year’s Colonial Athletic Association tournament, where the Seahawks (28-27, 16-8 CAA) blew not one but two chances to capture the championship, still bothers him and the players on last year’s 41-win team.

“It’s weighed on me for a year now. We didn’t finish [last year’s CAA tournament] the way we wanted to,” said Golden. “But we learned from it and we’ve got an older group of guys. Hopefully, we can use that experience to win a tournament.”

The Seahawks will begin its quest to make good on its status as preseason favorite when it faces the winner of William & Mary (31-23, 15-8 CAA) and Elon (24-30, 12-12 CAA). The Seahawks went 2-1 against both teams this season and dropped the final two games of last year’s tournament to the Tribe.

Whichever of the two teams wins can be expected to be greeted by sophomore pitcher Alex Royalty. For Royalty (8-2, 3.38 ERA), named CAA Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday, understanding the significance of winning the first game in a double-elimination tournament is not lost.

“My preparation started last week when I pitched on a short week,” said Royalty. “I took the week off lifting, but I’m eating right, hydrating and I’m going to go out there and give it my all for this conference tournament at home.”

Freshman pitcher Zarion Sharpe (6-1, 4.25 ERA) stands to pitch the second game regardless of whether UNCW wins or loses its first game. Sharpe’s emergence as a reliable number two starter behind Royalty makes it highly probably UNCW wins its first two games of the tournament.

“Sharpe came in and asserted his dominance, it helps us out a lot,” said Royalty. “Knowing that we have Game 1, we have Game 2, and that’s a series and gives a lot of confidence going into game three. We’re going to take that same confidence into the tournament.”

Coming into the tournament head coach Mark Scalf is confident where his team is after a roller-coaster of a season. UNCW has not missed a CAA tournament under Scalf and remains the only program in conference history to appear in each one

“I think our players are confident, they feel good about where they are,” said Scalf. “We’re certainly in a better shape and position than where we were six weeks ago. We’re playing much better, we’re healthier and continue to compete until the 27th out.”