2012 RECORD: 20-35 overall (11-13 in Big South)

HEAD COACH: Stuart Lake (82-140 in 4 seasons)

TOP PLAYERS: OF Chase Shelton (.344, 4 HRs, 29 RBIs); OF Bobby Ison (.333, 31 runs, 10 SB); SS Alex Tomasovich (.275, 2 HRs, 19 RBIs); OF John Faircloth (.287, 4 HRs, 24 RBIs)

TOP NEWCOMERS: LHP Andrew Tomasovich (Fort Mill HS); RHP Kyle Dyson (Hanahan HS); C Zach Haralambis (Chapin HS)

OUTLOOK: CSU has solid pitching depth and returns good experience defensively. Lake says this is his most talented team overall at CSU in his five seasons. Coastal Carolina will be hard to catch in the South Division but the Bucs certainly have a legitimate shot at second. Bucs have eight players on the roster from the Lowcountry. CSU will likely play its first-ever night home game sometime in April.

Charleston Southern excited about upgrades to home ballpark

BY DAVID SHELTON

Special to The Post and Courier

Charleston Southern baseball coach Stuart Lake begins his fifth season at the helm of the Buccaneers program with an extra spring in his step.

Not only does Lake have what he feels is his most talented team yet, but this season he will also mark the beginning of a new era at the school — night baseball.

Charleston Southern is installing stadium lights this spring and the Buccaneers hope to play the first-ever night home game at the school sometime in early April. A lighted baseball facility has been a priority for Lake since he arrived on campus.

“We had a vision for our program and I knew from the very start that lights had to be something we focused on here,” said Lake, a 1994 graduate of CSU and former player in the program. “It is obvious with the other two teams here in town, night baseball is a big thing and it has proven to be very successful.

“For me personally, it’s exciting to see this senior class get an opportunity to play under the lights here. Those guys are my first recruiting class and night baseball is something we expressed to those guys as one of our goals for this program when we recruited them.”

Lake says being able to play mid-week games at night, as well as Friday night games, will enable him to attract major programs to play at Charleston Southern like South Carolina, Georgia and Clemson, which already are on future schedules for games at Buccaneer field.

“This helps us tremendously in terms of scheduling opponents, but it also helps us with the class scheduling of our players,” Lake said. “I also think it will generate a great deal of excitement on campus and in our community.”

Lake said this year’s squad can be the most successful team he has coached. The Buccaneers have more pitching depth than ever before and the coach feels his team will be sound defensively.

“This is a team that I feel has a chance to be in the top half of our conference in pitching and defense,” said Lake, who is 82-140 in four seasons. “Offensively we have a veteran team that I feel real good about, but the obvious strengths to me are the pitching and the defense.”

Senior Ryan Gunther, a graduate of Stratford High School, will be the No. 1 starter this spring. Gunther was 0-8 last year but suffered several hard-luck losses and had a respectable 4.25 earned run average.

Senior Kevin Buran will be the Saturday starter in Big South games while freshman left-hander Andrew Tomasovich brings an impressive all-state resume from Fort Mill High School and will be the Sunday starter.

Juniors Levi Mauldin, Tory Schroff, and Stephen Leopard, along with sophomore Joe Pistacchio, will serve various mid-week starter and relief roles.

James Island product Austin Weekley, a sophomore, will step into the closer’s role this season. Freshman Kyle Dyson of Hanahan High School will also see time out of the pen this season.

Senior Drew Woodall will open the season behind the plate, with freshmen Zach Haralambis and Patrick McClure seeing time as well.

Senior Jaren Sustar is moving back to third base after playing second base last season while junior Alex Tomasovich is an all-conference candidate at shortstop.

Junior Cody Austin will move in as the starter at second base while sophomore Robbie Streett moves in as the starter at first. Streett hit .339 in 118 at bats last season. Junior Matt Witt may see duty at first while also pitching. Senior Harrison Wilkins is a utility infielder that will see spot action as well.

Anchoring the outfield is another Stratford product, sophomore centerfielder Bobby Ison, who hit .333 last season.

Sophomore Chase Shelton (.344, 4 HRs, 29 RBIs) is back in right field and shares time with junior Zack Hagaman. Senior John Faircloth, the starter at third last season, is moving to left this season.

“I really do feel the veterans on this team have led by example and come into this season with a very clear focus and determination,” said Lake.

CSU opens the season Friday with a three-game home series against Eastern Kentucky.