JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The East Tennessee State University baseball team kicks off its season in three-and-a-half weeks when it hosts Northern Kentucky on February 18.

This Buccaneers team features a good crop of experienced veterans and skilled underclassmen.

Infielders Bryce Hodge and Ashton King, outfielder David Beam and catcher Kyle Richardson will be cornerstones in the box and in the field. Hodge finished last year third in batting average while driving in 40 runs with 10 homeruns. King batted .282 with a team-leading 17 doubles. Beam was fifth on the team in batting average with Richardson chalking up 23 RBI’s.

Head coach Joe Pennucci mentioned how important this crop will be on and off the field.

“It’s the stability that you need when you’re up against it and I think it’s that experience that helps younger guys too, because when adversity shows up, they’re able to say, ‘Hey man, I’ve been through that.'”

King, who’s been a contributor since his freshman year, knows they’ve got a good mix of guys.

“We got some returners that played some key roles for us last year and we brought in some new guys as well, whether it’d be Juco or some transfers or some freshman, so we should be pretty good,” King said.

The Buccaneers also have plenty of talent on the bump as well. The rotation will feature seniors Colby Stuart and Nathanial Tate and junior Hunter Loyd. Stuart led the squad in wins with a 6-1 record while posting a 3.22 ERA with 73 strikeouts. Loyd topped the Buccaneers in strikeouts with 83 and Tate sat second in K’s with 74.

“I don’t really see any weakness, I think we’re going to be great on the mound. I think our hitters are going to score us runs, our defense is always going to be there, I think we’re going to be pretty good,” Stuart said.