Baseball begins season with best lineup yet
This could be the season.
“No question about it, this is the lineup to get us to the NCAA,” said Dave Tollett, the FGCU baseball head coach. “This is the lineup that can get us to the regional and win a regional — if we can pitch.”
Despite the program’s many successes, the FGCU baseball team has yet to win a conference championship and reach the NCAA tournament.
Led by seniors Nick Rivera and Jake Noll — both who were recognized as Louisville Slugger preseason All-Americans and unanimous picks to the preseason all-conference team — along with senior Colton Bottomley, Tyler Selesky at the top of the lineup, Matt Reardon in the lead-off spot and “a few junior college players in the mix,” the team is confident that this is the program’s best lineup yet.
“We have probably the best hitting team that I’ve ever been a part of,” Rivera said. “This year, we developed a new attitude. We wanted to keep playing into June last year, and it didn’t end how we wanted, so this year we have a ‘never-say-die’ attitude.”
However, the big question mark still remains on the Eagles’ mound.
After losing highly-decorated Louisville Slugger All-American Mike Murray late in the MLB draft to Oakland and right-hander Jordan Desguin to Milwaukee in the MLB draft, along with senior pitchers Nick Deckert, Andris Gonzalez and Jack English from their pitching staff, the Eagles will need to pick up the pieces early to mirror its game at the plate.
“I think we’re going to be able to score runs,” Tollett said, “We’re just going to need to slow people down.”
FGCU returns redshirt senior Brady Anderson, juniors Garrett Anderson and Sterling Koerner, sophomores Josh Dye and Mario Leon to the pitching staff, joined by four junior college transfers and nine freshmen.
Brady Anderson, who played a major roll for FGCU last season, playing on both sides of the ball as the designated hitter, pitched a 5-1 record and a 3.33 ERA with 52 strikeouts to his 15 walks.
Koerner, a right-hander who posted a career-best season with a a 6-4 record and a 3.02 ERA, was just named as one of 70 collegiate pitchers named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Watch List. The Stopper of the Year award is given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
Leon, who suffered an injury during summer ball and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, is expected to have a big season.
Junior college transfers include St. Petersburg College lefty Sawyer Wilson, Kenton Hering from Eastern Florida State College, Tyler Atwell from Tallahassee Community College and Corey Fehribach from West Georgia Community College.
“We still don’t know which way we’re going to go yet,” Tollett said. “Each weekend it changes for us as far as rotation, but I think once we can get Josh Dye back into the rotation, I think you’ll see our pitching staff click.”
Dye, who made 14 appearances and eight starts during his freshman season last year while posting a 3.70 ERA, will be sidelined until possibly mid-March due to a hairline fracture at the elbow in his throwing arm.
Until then, Tollett will hope for players to get as much experience as possible against FGCU’s high-ranked opponents.
“It’s all about experience.” Tollett said, “We have some decent arms, but they’re going to have to go out there and get some experience and pitch against some good teams early on.”
With an Atlantic Sun Conference Championship trophy still missing in FGCU’s trophy case, FGCU’s experience will come early in the team’s hardest nonconference schedule that the program has ever seen beginning with No. 1 Florida in Gainesville.
“We’re excited,” Tollett said. “I don’t know if we’re going to see any better arms in the A-Sun than what we’re going to see the first eight games. I don’t know if we’ll see better arms when we get into regional.”
FGCU’s batter’s will likely face the likes of right hander Logan Shore of the USA Collegiate National Team, 6-foot-7-inch lefty A.J. Puk , who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in next summer’s MLB draft, Alex Faedo, a right hander who finished with a 3.23 ERA, and Dane Dunning another right hander, who finished last season with 55 strikeouts in 60.1 innings.
“We’re very confident,” Rivera said. “Any given day, we can beat anyone in the country. That’s our mindset. We’re going to go up there, battle, compete and, hopefully, come out with some wins.”
FGCU will open up the season with a three-game series against No. 1 Florida in Gainesville, before making a stop in Tampa for a single game against USF, which is receiving votes. The Eagles will be home for the first time this season on Feb. 26 with a three-game series against Illinois, which is also receiving votes, followed by a single game against No. 4 Miami in Coral Gables on March 2.
In the Eagles’ nonconference season, seven of the eight teams they will face — University of Florida, University of South Florida, , Florida A&M Univeristy, Florida Atlantic University, University of Miami, and Illinois – made it to a regional. Florida and Miami also made it to the 2015 College World Series, with Florida reaching the semifinal round.
Conference foes Stetson, North Florida and Lipscomb, who edged the Ospreys in the Atlantic Sun Championship Final, are also receiving votes.
“It’s really the toughest schedule we’ve ever had at FGCU,” Tollett said.
FGCU will begin its season against No. 1 Florida in Gainesville on Feb. 19 and will have its home opener against Illinois on Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m.