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Memphis Baseball Season Preview: New Coach, New Players, New Expectations

New Head Coach Matt Riser coaches his team, as Memphis prepares for the 2024 baseball season.
New Head Coach Matt Riser coaches his team, as Memphis prepares for the 2024 baseball season.

Change is the theme for the Memphis baseball program as the 2024 season will be a completely different experience from seasons past. Five new conference opponents, fourteen new transfers, and the third different head coach in three years will require this Tigers’ squad to gel quickly if they want to make this a memorable season.  

However, there are lots of reasons to believe this will be the best season the program has had in a long time. Last season was the first time Memphis finished with a winning record in a non-covid season since 2017 and with experienced bats on the roster plus a pitching staff with tons of upside the Tigers could surprise quite a few people in 2024.  

This all starts with new head coach Matt Riser. Riser spent ten seasons at Southeastern Louisiana where he accumulated a 320-224 record, three Southland Conference Tournament titles, and four births to the NCAA tournament. At just thirty-nine years old coach, Riser brings with him a strong winning culture that should help elevate the potential of the program in the long run.  

Roster Changes

Key Returners: Austin Baskin, Jake Curtis, Shane Cox, David Warren, Luke Ellis, JT Durham 

Key Departures: Logan Kohler, Anthony Hanson, Brayland Skinner, Cameron Benson, Dalton Kendrick, Dalton Fowler 

Key Transfer Newcomers: Will Marcy, Aaron Smigelski, Kyle Stepter, Riley Davis, and Daunte Stuart 

Austin Baskins returns after slashing .287/.363/.491 last year in 216 ABs, and he will be one of the stars in the lineup to combine with other returning players like Shane Cox, Tyler Heckert, and Jonah Sutton. But offense is where the transfer class will make a difference, as there are going to be many new names for Memphis baseball fans to quickly get accustomed to hearing.  

Jacob Compton returns to Memphis after a back injury stopped his 2023 season at South Carolina before it got started. Last time he was in action he was sensational, where, in 2022, he was 1st team All-AAC as a Tiger with a .291 average, eighteen doubles, eleven home-runs, and fifty-five RBIs. The hope is that he will return to 2022 form and be a force in the middle of the order.  

Will Marcy, a junior outfielder, transferred from NC State where he hit .301/.399/.500 in 136 ABs with five home runs and twelve doubles. With Memphis losing so many outfielders from last year’s team, Marcy will be one of the many players filling in those missing spots on the lineup card.  

Daunte Stuart transfers to Memphis after 4 years at Northwestern State where he had 183 career hits in 176 career starts at second base and was 3rd team All-Southland in 2023.  

Finally, catcher Riley Davis transferred from UL-Monroe where he started 51 games at catcher and produced a slash line of .274/.350/.457 with hit eight home runs. 

All these names mean a couple of things. One, Memphis is going to be deep when it comes to lineup options. There’s a lot of college experience on this roster which should give fans confidence in the Tigers’ ability to score on any given night. However, this is a team that, outside of a few scrimmages in fall camp, has no experience playing with each other. There might be some early growing pains as guys adjust to new roles playing with each other.  

Another thing to note is this team will be aggressive on the basepaths. While Memphis lost their top three base stealers from last season, there are enough guys on the roster this season that the Tigers should be able to make up for their lost production. Look out for Edmonds College transfer Alex Fernandes on the bases this season, who was able to swipe 17 bags in 2023.  

 There are a lot more questions on the pitching front for the Tigers. Memphis lost Dalton Fowler to the MLB, which is a massive blow to the rotation. The good news for the Tigers is they do return a large part of their starts from last season. Seth Garner, Luke Ellis, David Warren, and J.T Durham are all back for another season which gives Memphis valuable experience.  

The bullpen was carried by Dalton Kendrick last season, but he’s in single A now. This means Memphis could see a significant decline from last year’s top 100 finish in team ERA. There is reason for optimism from this group, but it’s just going to take a couple of series for fans to get a grasp of where this team is on the mound.  

As for expectations, the Tigers' goal must be a winning conference record. Memphis has not had a winning record in the AAC since 2013(barring covid) and given the amount of the change in the American, this is the opportunity for the Tigers to assert themselves in the top half of the conference. While externally there might not be much buzz around Memphis baseball, this squad can compete and outpace the non-North Carolina teams in the AAC.  

In his first year, Coach Riser and company will look to bring a tradition of winning baseball to Memphis.  

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