JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 13, 2017) – On Monday, ETSU baseball head coach Tony Skole officially announced the captains for the 2017 season: Connor Bartow (Jonesborough, Tenn.), Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.), Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.), Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Peyton Taylor (Kingsport, Tenn.).
“We pride our program on toughness, commitment and development, and I have selected these five players who embody these characteristics. I am very pleased to have Connor, Chris, Aaron, Hagen and Peyton leading the way for this year’s ball club,” said Skole. “I picked these young men for who they are and for what they do. These young men take great pride in our program and have a solid understanding of the commitment, expectations and responsibility that comes with this honor. I have 100 percent confidence that they will get the job done.”
A four year letterman, Bartow has appeared in 21 games in his ETSU career. He is 1-0 in his appearances with the Bucs. He picked up his first collegiate victory in a 10-7 win versus Western Carolina in 2015. During his tenure, Bartow has only surrendered six walks for the Blue and Gold, and last season, he appeared in crucial situations and only allowed three runs while on the bump.
Coach Skole’s comments: “Connor is a great example of what a student-athlete is all about. During his career, he always did everything asked of him, and he has worked extremely hard to become an important part of our bullpen this spring. Connor has a bright future ahead of him as he will graduate with honors this spring and will enroll in medical school next year.”
Cook, who was drafted last season, has spent four years with ETSU. He was red-shirted last season, but that didn’t stop him from being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 30th round. For his career, he totes a .310 batting average (140-for-451) in 111 games started, which is the most by any current player. He has 10 career triples, which is three short of tying Trey York for the third-most in an ETSU career. Cook has 22 doubles and 38 career extra-base hits for the second-most on the current roster.
Coach Skole’s comments: “Chris has solidified himself as one of the top shortstops in college baseball. It was very difficult to see him injure himself last year and watch him have to sit out basically the entire season, but over the last nine months, his tremendous competitiveness and perseverance has been on display. Chris has worked extremely hard to come back better than ever, and he is poised to have a huge season for us.”
Also being drafted by the Pirates last season, Maher is returning for his junior season for ETSU. He had a breakout season last year as the Brentwood, Tenn. native slashed for .315/.401/.525. He started and played in 56 games with most of the starts coming in left field. During his sophomore season, he was third on the team in doubles (15), home runs (9), total bases (115), slugging percentage (.525), walks (29) and stolen bases (14). He cracked 69 total hits with 26 of those hits being extra-base knocks.
Coach Skole’s comments: “It has been exciting to see Aaron’s development over the last two and a half years. He has smoothed out the rough edges and turned himself into a big-time player. Aaron’s work ethic is off the charts, and he has become one of the most physically talented athletes in college baseball. With his tools, he can dominate a game in many ways. The sky is the limit for Aaron, and I can’t wait to see him play this spring.”
The third player to be drafted on ETSU’s team by the Pirates was Owenby. He was taken in the 14th round, which was the second highest last season. Returning for his third season for the Blue and Gold, he owns most career offensive categories on the current roster: batting average (.347), hits (141), doubles (27), home runs (24), extra-base hits (51) and walks (49). Last season, the All-American crushed a team-best 17 home runs including two spans where he hit a home run in three consecutive games. He also competed and won the 2016 AmeriTrade Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb.
Coach Skole’s comments: “Hagen has been a big-game player since he stepped on campus. He has been a mainstay in our lineup and has shown great durability and toughness to stay on the field every day. Hagen was one of the top catching prospects in the country last year, but this year he is even better as he has improved and worked his tail off this winter to take his game to another level.”
One of the remaining two players from the 2013 Atlantic Sun championship team, Taylor was also pegged a captain by Skole. The red-shirt senior leads the team in career saves and is third-most in appearances (50) in his career. The Kingsport, Tenn. native sports a career 2.21 strikeout to walk ratio. He has started in four games while coming out of the bullpen 46 times. Last season, he went 3-4 in 31 appearances, and he recorded five saves in 38.1 innings pitched with a 3.43 strikeout to walk ratio.
Coach Skole’s comments: “Peyton has become one of the most dependable arms on our pitching staff. His commitment and dedication to our program is off the charts. He has battled through two knee surgeries and turned himself into our most reliable pitcher. Peyton is a great student and a great teammate who I always catch doing the right things.”
The ETSU baseball season is right around the corner as the Bucs will host their season–opening series on Feb. 17-19. ETSU will welcome Central Michigan for a three-game series starting on Friday, Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.