Feb. 9, 2014
BOCA RATON, Fla. - With less than two weeks until opening day, FAUSports.com takes a look at the breakdown of the 2014 Florida Atlantic University baseball team. Today, we take a look around the infield.
Ricky Santiago will be a critical part of Head Coach John McCormack's infield arsenal. The junior will begin the season as the team's starting first baseman. As a sophomore in 2013, Santiago started all 64 of FAU's games at third base, where he could also see time this season. He hit .298 with five home runs and 29 RBI and was second on the team with 14 doubles in 2013.
Redshirt freshman Esteban Puerta has closed the gap between himself and Santiago with a fantastic offseason. The Cooper City, Fla. native will also see time at the designated hitter slot when not playing in the field.
Buckley played in 29 games in 2013, making 16 starts. He had four extra-base hits, including a home run, and six RBI.
Kerr was first team All-County and third team All-American at Coral Springs Charter School under coach Mike Higgins. He was a captain of his high school squad and won two national championships with the South Florida Elite Squad.
Junior Mitch Morales is the clear-cut starter at shortstop, returning 64 games of experience from a season ago. He batted .301 with 30 RBI and eight doubles. The Wellington, Fla. native has played in all of FAU's 115 games during his tenure and started in 114 of those.
Kerr and freshman CJ Chatham, a 6-foot, 4-inch graduate of American Hertiage High School, will provide depth at shortstop. Chatham hit .416 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in his senior campaign and was named All-County for his performance.
Competition is still open for third base, but Chatham will likely be the starter at the beginning of the year. Freshmen Reid Neal, Kellen Brown and Cain Spangler could see time at different positions around the infield.
Neal's defense has been impressive through the fall and early in the spring. He could step in at second, third or shortstop. A graduate of Viera High School, he played on the varsity team from seventh to 12th grade. The Melbourne, Fla. native was named All-State in both his junior and senior seasons.
Brown, a native of Dunedin, Fla., suffered an injury in the fall, but has returned to form and can play several positions for the Owls. The MVP of his high school squad each of the last two seasons, Brown's offensive prowess could also give him time as a designated hitter or pinch hitter. He was first team All-State and the 5A District Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
Spangler is in his second season at FAU after redshirting in 2013. The 6-foot, 3-inch Cape Coral, Fla. native was a two-time MVP for his high school squad and was named a 2011 Under Armour Preseason All-American.
FAU is ranked No. 24 in the Perfect Game preseason poll, 30th in the NCBWA poll, and is receiving votes in other national polls.
The Owls open their 2014 season on Saturday, Feb. 15 with a home doubleheader against Notre Dame. First pitches are scheduled for 1 and 6 p.m. at the FAU Baseball Stadium, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton campus.
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