Senior Colby Gratton will be moving to center field in 2011
Feb. 15, 2011
Boca Raton, Fla. - Duel-threat outfielders with offensive and defensive skills -- and even an occasional pitching performance -- will help lead the Florida Atlantic University baseball team to defend its Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship and NCAA regional appearance this spring.
The Owls hit the field for the first time on Friday, February 18, in the season opener against Hoftstra University at the FAU Baseball Stadium, 777 Glades Road on the Boca Raton campus.
Mee highlights the group as a preseason All-American by two organizations (National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America and Louisville Slugger) and preseason All-Sun Belt Conference player. Those accolades are well deserved after leading the team with a .378 batting average and 99 hits. The right fielder from Palm Beach Gardens also serves as the team's closing reliever, which will open late-inning playing time for returnees Mark Nelson, Nathan Pittman and Corey Keller.
Gratton, one of this year's three team captains, will occupy a new position - center field - in his fourth season on the team. The Miami native has hit a respectable .286 in 47 starts last season and led the Owls with four triples. Fourteen of his 55 hits went for extra bases and he hit a walk-off home run against FIU to propel the Owls to last year's conference title.
Newcomer Alex Hudak is expected to occupy left field after having a strong fall season in which he hit a home run during the team's exhibition against a Canadian team. The left-handed hitter will provide power and balance throughout the team's lineup after hitting .341, with eight home runs, a year ago while earning all-conference honors at Seminole Junior College. He started his college career at Stetson University.
"Alex has made a huge impact and it is always nice to have a guy with some power from the left side of the plate," noted McCormack.
Nelson, another left-handed hitter, leads a competitive group of four players hoping to contribute for at-bats and playing time after productive fall and spring workouts. The Orlando native appeared in 21 games last season, with two starts, and could see playing time at both corner outfield positions during his sophomore season.
"Mark has been our best hitter since September," admitted McCormack. "He is a guy who figures out how to get the job done and contribute to the team's success. We have to get him in the lineup whenever possible."
Speed and keen defensive skills are assets for Pittman and freshman Geoff Jimenez for playing time throughout the season. Pittman, a sophomore from Bradenton, hit .280 and scored 22 runs in 45 games, with 19 starts, last season.
"Nathan and Geoff can make things happen offensively with their speed," said McCormack. "They can put pressure on the defense. That's a valuable asset for any team to possess."
Rounding out the outfield unit is sophomore Corey Keller, who produced well last year by hitting .360, with one home runs and four runs, in five starts and 18 games played.
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.