Junior Andrew Thome will get the ball in game one. He threw a no-hitter in the season opener last season.
Baseball season preview: Pitching staff
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Updated: Friday 02/26/2014 14:29:30 (ET)
by Mitch Wigness, UND Media Relations
Send this article to a friend Print RSS Shop takes a look at the 2014 baseball team with a three-part installment leading into North Dakota's season opener on Friday.
Overall- Tuesday    |    Pitching staff- Wednesday    |    Lineup- Thursday
Preseason prospectus    |    2014 schedule

Part two of our season preview focuses on the pitching staff. UND returns its entire rotation, the vast bulk of its bullpen and acquires a few more arms from newcomers and those returning from injuries.

Entering a new conference is always a question mark. When you can go into your new league with a solid group of arms like UND head coach Jeff Dodson has, it has to make things easier.

Dodson has the luxury of a few players that could be labeled "ace". After coming onto the scene with a bang as a freshman, Andrew Thome continued to impress in his sophomore season last year, earning a spot on the All-Great West Conference Second Team with a host of impressive performances.

All Thome did was fire a no-hitter in the season opener against Mount Marty College last year and finished the season with a 6-5 record and a 4.14 earned run average. He led the team in strikeouts with 57 and again was a workhorse, logging a team-high 78.1 innings.

Add to the mix another quality arm that had a spectacular sophomore season in righty Alex Twenge. He, too, won six games against just one defeat while leading the team with a sparkling 2.52 ERA among regular starters. Twenge's control was good, walking only 16 batters in 64.1 innings and allowing batters to hit just .229 off of him. He returns for his junior season with another solid spot in the rotation.

Two arms that return from injury this year are junior Jeff Campbell and sophomore Brett DeGagne. While Campbell did pitch some last season and was a regular in the lineup, injuries prevented him from being on the mound more as he made just seven starts. The fire-balling right-hander twirled a four-hit complete game shutout against St. Cloud State on Feb. 25 but was injured in his next start and didn't come back to full strength until a May 3rd start. All told, he went 3-3 with a 5.23 ERA and 25 Ks.

DeGagne sat the entire season last year and aims to be a factor. He saw action in 18 games in 2012, making one start. He was 3-6 with an 8.41 ERA in 40.2 innings, mostly in middle relief, but the imposing 6-foot-6 righty could be used as a starter as well.

"We do have a couple of other guys that will provide some quality innings for us," Dodson said. "Tyler Ruemmele and Zach Muckenhirn among them and Ellery Bresnahan has a chance to pitch for us, too.

"Patrick Riewer did a nice job for us out of the bullpen along with Reid Jungling and Brock Johnson is back healthy, too."

Muckenhirn and Bresnahan are both true freshmen for UND and both might be asked to contribute right away. Ruemmele earned a spot in the rotation last season and provided some innings. He threw 55.0 innings in 12 outings, including nine starts and was able to go the distance in four of those starting appearances. He finished with a 6.87 ERA and a 2-7 record.

Riewer saw time on the mound in 12 contests, all in relief, helping to bolster the backend of the bullpen. The right-hander had a 3.81 ERA and registered three saves along with a 2-1 record.

Jungling was an innings-eating southpaw out of the 'pen, being used 21 times, including all four games of the Great West Tournament. He piled up 45.1 innings and maintained a solid 3.57 ERA with a 3-1 record.

Johnson also contributed last year, especially down the stretch. He had a few lengthy outings in wins over South Dakota State and NJIT at home but was key in a win over top-seeded Northern Colorado in the league tournament. He threw 3.2 innings in relief with just one earned run to earn the win.

Other pitchers returning include: Ben Clark (1-2, 5.86) and Trent Egan (0-2, 10.98) along with Chris Knoll and Zach Hayes who each had a handful of appearances.

Thursday's preview spotlights the offense and positional players as UND heads into its opening weekend of play at Central Arkansas.

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