With Opening Day just days away, Radford University breaks down the Highlanders’ roster in advance of the season opener on Friday against Iona. Led by first-year head coach Alex Guerra, Radford features a solid mix of returning veterans and newcomers.
Radford returns several key pieces from last year’s infield, headlined by Zack Whitacre, who slashed .324/.395/.441 in 29 games a season ago. He will be complemented by Avery Spencer, who came on strong towards the end of last season to hit .375 with nine RBI across 19 starts. Spencer’s season was cut short due to injury, but the freshman from Pottstown, Penn., is now fully healthy and will be a key cog in the Radford offense.
Also returning are first baseman Ryan Gilmore, who started 31 games last year, and utility man Tanner Barrs, who posted a .391 on-base percentage in 43 games and has experience at both first base and in the outfield.
Among the newcomers, transfers Zack Mallia (UNC Greensboro) and Tristan Shoemaker (Virginia) have both shown promise in the offseason. Mallia is a two-way player who can pencil in as both a DH and a closer while Shoemaker saw playing time as a reserve for the top-25 ranked Cavaliers a season ago.
Sully Tibbs has been one of the team’s most impressive freshmen, and he can play multiple positions. Adding to the infield depth is Miles LeVere, a transfer from Prince George’s Community College.
The Highlanders return center fielder Cameron Pittman, who had a sensational freshman campaign in 2022. The Virginia Beach native batted .301 with 20 RBI and 11 stolen bases, pacing the team in runs (40) and walks (30). Pittman had a keen eye at the plate, leading the Big South Conference in fewest strikeouts per at-bat at 11.1, a figure that ranked 37th nationally and third among all freshmen.
Paul Moore also returns for Radford, having played 35 games last season. New faces in the outfield include Peyton Henry, a transfer from John A. Logan College, and Austin Stalker, a freshman who provides a big left-handed bat.
Among the most important returning pieces for Radford is catcher Julian Rojas, a senior from Humble, Texas, who played 44 games last season while putting up an impressive .300/.413/.457 slash line. Rojas tied for the team lead with four home runs while also leading the Highlanders in slugging percentage and being hit by a pitch (16). As a senior, he provides valuable experience at the backstop position, having played in more than 100 career games.
Freshman catchers Garrett Pancione and Bannon Brazell will also figure into the mix.
Though Radford loses its top three starters from last year, the Highlanders do return graduate senior Alex Perkins, a righthander from Christiansburg who posted a 1.35 ERA across six appearances last year. Though he missed the majority of the season due to an injury, Perkins was lights-out in 2021, notching a 2.86 ERA in 17 outings. He will be leaned on heavily as the team’s most experienced arm.
Another starting candidate is Scott Rouse, a transfer from Ohio Dominican University who collected 79 strikeouts in 12 starts for the Division II Panthers a season ago. Rouse was a third team All-Great Midwest Athletic Conference selection as a rookie in 2021.
Freshman Dylan Howard, a righty from Greenville, S.C., is also primed to be a weekend starter.
The Highlanders have significant continuity in their bullpen as they return grad senior Ty Burton and Foster Seitz. As a freshman, Seitz appeared in 19 games and held opponents to a .243 batting average. Also returning in the pen are left handers Luke VonGoedert and Gannon Kadlecik and righthander Landon Higgerson.
Several new faces highlight a promising young pitching core, including freshman Ben Keefe and Collin Williams. Lefthanders Carter Seabrooke, a transfer from the College of Central Florida, and Eli Parks, a redshirt sophomore from Midlothian, Va., will also provide innings out of the pen.
– Submitted by RU Athletics