Feb. 14, 2011
Boca Raton, Fla. - Returning all five starting players from last year’s Sun Belt Conference championship and NCAA regional qualifying team, it’s not surprising that infield play should be a key asset for the Florida Atlantic University baseball team during the 2011 season. The Owls will open the new campaign on Friday, February 18, against Hofstra University, starting at 6:30 p.m., at the FAU Baseball Stadium, 777 Glades Road on the Boca Raton campus.
“We have an experienced senior playing at first, second, shortstop and third base,” noted John McCormack, FAU’s head baseball coach. “When you include catcher Mike Albaladejo, you have an infield unit that has logged a lot of time in college baseball and helped us win many games.”
Successful teams are known for its strong defensive alignment through the middle of the field – starting at catcher and extending through the double-play combination of shortstop and second base. For the Owls, this should definitely be an area of strength with Albaladejo at catcher, shortstop Nick DelGuidice and second baseman Raymond Church.
“Our double-play combination (Delguidice/Church) has very good chemistry and I believe is one of the better combinations in the country,” said McCormack.
Church, a native of West Palm Beach, developed into one of the top second basemen in Florida collegiate baseball. He was named to the Sun Belt Conference and NCAA Gainesville Regional all-tournament teams, and league coaches voted him to the preseason all-SBC team. He led the conference in walks (45) and ranked in the league’s top five in five other offensive categories – batting average (.329), runs scored (54), home runs (10), doubles (15) and runs batted in (46). Church will be one of Owls’ three team captains this season.
Delguidice was a durable contributor – on the field and in the batter’s box – for Florida Atlantic a year ago as he started in all 61 games at shortstop. He earned the National Player of the Week Award after driving in a school-record nine runs in a victory over Boston College, and helped the Owls turn 51 double plays during the season.
Elsewhere in the infield, Dan Scheffler is a prototypical power-hitting first baseman, leading the team with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs. The senior from West Palm Beach native also can hit for a high average, posting a strong .371 batting average. The preseason all-conference selection committed just 10 errors in 530 defensive chances.
Third baseman Sean Bukovich plays stingy defense at the hot corner, having two errors in 75 fielding opportunities. The Boca Raton native settled into a starting position mid-way through last season, starting 24 of his 42 games, and was selected to the Gainesville Regional all-tournament team after helping the team advance to the championship game. The switch-hitter drove in 21 runs while scoring an additional 16 runs a year ago.
Albaladejo is the lone junior in the starting infield group heading into the spring season. However, he might be the most experienced player in the lineup as a two-year starter. The Winter Gardens, Fla., native led the country in sacrifice bunts per game after successfully placing 20 last season – a rarity for a catcher. He also helped manage a pitching staff that had a 5.47 earned run average – nearly a run lower than the previous season.
“Mike is a winner everywhere he has gone,” said McCormack. “He loves to compete and his intensity rubs off on other players.”
Other players that could contribute to FAU’s success this season are sophomore catcher Mike Spano, who has progressed throughout the summer and fall workouts after seeing action in 15 games (three starts) a year ago; redshirt junior Joey Burkhalter, a versatile player who can play three infield positions – second and third bases, along with shortstop – and split time with Bukovich at third base most of last season (18 starts) with a .290 batting average; and freshmen Robert Buckley of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Devon Workman of Clermont, Fla.
Season and individual tickets for the Owls’ upcoming season can be purchased through the FAU ticket office website at www.fausports.com, or by calling 1-866-FAU-OWLS. Tickets also will be made available at Ticketmaster.com.