TUCSON, Ariz. - Florida Southern will open the 2017 baseball season as the nation's 20th-ranked team according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Division II Preseason Coaches' Poll.
The Moccasins finished the 2016 season with a 32-17 overall record and was third in the Sunshine State Conference with a 14-10 mark. The 32 wins marked a 10-game improvement over the 2015 campaign.
Reigning Division II National Champion Nova Southeastern, out of the Sunshine State Conference, headlines the preseason poll as the Sharks (44-16) earned 629 points, besting fellow SSC member school, the University of Tampa (41-10), by a mere three points. The Moccasins garnered 573 points in the poll. Other league schools listed as receiving votes include Lynn and Florida Tech.
Other ranked opponents the Moccasins will face in the upcoming season include No. 19 West Florida; No. 38 Lander; and No. 33 Mount Olive; while Delta State and Flagler received votes.
Moccasin fifth-year coach Lance Niekro, who picked up his 100th career win last season, welcomes back four position starters and two starting pitchers from last season's squad.
Among the key returning starters for the Mocs, who have won an NCAA Division II best nine national championships, are senior Mitch Reeves (.364, 11 HR, 48 RBI), who moves to leftfield after earning All-South honors at third base last season, senior firstbaseman Jason Sierra (.337, 5 HR, 39 RBI); junior rightfielder Logan Browning (.231, 9 HR, 39 RBI), who was a first-team All-South performer as a utility player last season; and sophomore shortstop Pablo Cabrera (.263, 1 HR, 28 RBI). Behind the dish, the Mocs return a pair of senior catchers that split time in Evan Barnes (.271, 1 HR, 16 RBI) and Kevin Fuller (.267, 1 HR, 14 RBI).
On the hill, Browning returns as a starting pitcher/DH as well as senior starter Cameron Hanes. Browning, a lefty, was 5-3 last season while Hanes, a righthander, was 3-4. Top relievers include righthanded seniors Mitch McCarthy (3-0, 3 saves) and Craig Savage (2-1, 2 saves).
Top newcomer position players include Cody Burgess, a second baseman from Polk State; junior shortstop Omark Villaman from St. John's River State; red-shirt freshman Wyatt Jackson; junior catcher Austin Mauer from Lake Sumpter State; and freshman third baseman Christian Maglich from Cardinal Moooney High School.
Florida Southern lost its top hitter in All-American Sam Machonis (.388, 13 HR, 21 SB) to the Detroit Tigers in the 10th round of the 2016 Major League Draft; All-SSC pitcher Ben Richardson (9-5, 81 K); and reliever Brady Arenson (3-2).
Niekro will be aided this season by a group of new assistant coaches in David Kopp (former pitcher for Clemson who pitched eight seasons in the minors for the Cardinals and Tigers); Steven Crabtree (who will also serve as head coach of the Moccasins JV squad); Jimmy Redovian, Nate Striz; and volunteer Joe Alvarez.
The Mocs will open their 2017 season with a three-game series at West Florida on Feb. 3-4. The home opener will be the following weekend as FSC host Delta State on Friday, Feb. 10.
COLLEGIATE BASEBALL MAGAZINE
PRESEASON POLL (12/21/16)
|1.||Nova Southeastern (44-16)||629|
|3.||Central Missouri (43-15)||622|
|4.||Southern New Hampshire (50-7)||619|
|6.||Cal. Poly Pomona (42-19)||612|
|7.||Franklin Pierce (48-9)||610|
|8.||Angelo St. (39-22)||607|
|10.||S.C. Aiken (40-18)||601|
|11.||St. Edward's (46-12)||600|
|12.||Colorado Mesa (43-13)||597|
|14.||California Baptist (42-13)||590|
|15.||Dixie St. (40-14)||587|
|16.||Minnesota St. (36-18)||585|
|17.||St. Cloud St. (43-10)||582|
|18.||Belmont Abbey (39-16-1)||579|
|19.||West Florida (36-17)||575|
|20.||Florida Southern (32-17)||573|
Click here for the complete Preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Division II Coaches' Poll