After eight months, the NSU baseball team will return to the field on Feb. 1, when they play at Columbus State University.
Coming into the 2013 season, the Sharks have received their first preseason ranking in program history, ranking as high as seventh on College Baseball Lineup’s preason poll, and they are predicted to finish second in the Sunshine State Conference.
Head coach Greg Brown’s high ambitions remain the same as last year. “We want to be competing for a Sunshine State Conference title and also for a National title,” said the third year coach.
After back-to-back seasons with 35 wins and trips to the regional playoffs, he believes that the team is ready to take the next big step. With a talented roster, Brown and the rest of the coaching staff will have a tough time configuring the best starting lineup.
The fall preseason did, however, give the coaching staff a better indication of who will start once the season begins. Returning starters Blake Boyd, Carlos Asjuae and Alex Marrero are expected to start the season at their positions: shortstop, second base and right field respectively. New players will be featured at the corner infield positions, along with two new outfielders.
Senior Brett Clements will handle the pitching staff as the starting catcher, while junior Zach Westcott and senior Vinnie Contaldi will open the season as starting pitchers. At the back end of the bullpen, the Sharks will utilize senior relief pitcher Cody Stiles. With one or two more spots in the starting rotation still available and plenty of relief roles remaining, competition will stay fierce among the rest of the pitchers.
Two big factors of the Sharks success will be Asjuae and Westcott. Last season Asuaje led the team in hits, batting average, runs and doubles. His numbers, among the best in the SSC, earned him national recognition last season. Following his first full season, Westcott led the team in wins, earned run average and innings pitched. If the Sharks are going to have a good 2013 season, he will have to follow up last year’s accomplishments with an equally stellar performance.
Westcott seems up to the challenge. “I just want to be able to put the team in a good position to win a series every weekend,” he said.
With the season approaching and hopes growing, this Sharks team knows the road ahead of them will be tough. They will either need to win the SSC regular season championship or finish the season as one of three wildcard teams to qualify for the regional playoffs.
Seasoned veteran Contaldi understands the importance of winning in the regular season. “This year, it is going to be tougher to get into the playoffs,” he said. “With only six teams making it to regionals, the regular season becomes more important.”
Once in regionals, the Sharks will need to endure the double elimination tournament by winning three games. If they can win the South Region, they will make the trip to Cary, N.C. for the Division II College World Series. They will need to win another four games before they can be crowned National Champions. The only remaining question is: can they do it?