BOCA RATON, Fla. – With the new season’s lidlifter on the docket in 11 days’ time, this marks the first of three positional previews for 2018. FAUSports.com sat down with Head Coach John McCormack to first talk about the Owls’ infield.
- Today: Infielders
- Wednesday, Feb. 7: Outfielders and Catchers
- Friday, Feb. 9: Pitchers
The infield is the converse of McCormack and the team’s situation of a year ago. In 2017, the infield made up the bulk of returning experience for position players, while the outfield was all newcomers to the program. This year, the infield returns just one starter, but he is a multi-honored Preseason All-American in shortstop Tyler Frank.
“Tyler is going to anchor the infield,” said McCormack. “His two-year career here, along with his summer ball stint with Team USA, is well-documented.”
Frank picked up another nod on Monday, chosen by the NCBWA as a Third Team Preseason All-American. That is the fourth such honor in this offseason for the soon-to-be junior (DIBaseball.com selected him as Third Team Preseason All-American, as did Perfect Game/Rawlings, and the first came courtesy of Collegiate Baseball, who named him to their Second Team).
To Frank’s right, the hot corner will be manned by junior Joe Montes, a transfer from San Joaquin Delta College.
“Joe is very similar to (graduated senior third baseman) Austin Langham in every way, his make-up, his personality and his baseball ability,” said McCormack. “It’s eerily similar.”
Langham’s departure coincides with a whole new right side of the infield, as first baseman Esteban Puerta and second baseman Stephen Kerr will need to be replaced as well. That duo spent a combined nine years with the program. With practice just getting underway, McCormack still sees both positions as hotly-contested battles.
“At first base, you have Gunnar Lambert, who is coming out from behind the plate and you have redshirt freshman Andru Summerall battling it out,” he said. “Gunnar is an extremely intelligent baseball player that will add to the offense and the defense. You can’t forget his versatility, he can also catch and play third as needed. Andru has some high-end talent, it’s just a matter of us putting him in situations to succeed. He’s still relatively young.”
Lambert missed last season due to injury, while Summerall utilized a first-year redshirt as well. McCormack mentioned as well that one of those two could be in the mix for designated hitter at-bats dependent on the end result of the competition.
At second base are two more newcomers duking it out for playing time: another junior college transfer in redshirt sophomore Richie Nizza (from Florida State College at Jacksonville), and true freshman Mariano Ricciardi, who comes to Boca Raton all the way from West Boylston, Massachusetts.
“Richie has some high-end ability, he just has to get used to DI baseball,” said McCormack. “Mariano is a sparkplug type-guy that I think our fans will enjoy watching play.”
The top backup for three spots is Jared DeSantolo, also a true freshman, from Tampa. McCormack also sees scenarios in which starting leftfielder Eric Rivera could see time in the infield, and Killian McCray, another first-year native of Tampa, will provide depth.
“Freshman Jared DeSantolo has the ability to play first base, second base and third base, so he gives us some options as we go through the season,” said McCormack. “He is a good left-handed bat with some power. Other possibilities in the infield will include sophomore Eric Rivera and freshman Killian McCray.”
Stay tuned for the two remaining position previews later this week, ahead of the Owls hosting George Washington a week from Friday on Opening Night. For tickets, call 1-866-FAU-OWLS.