Sophomore Ricky Santiago looks to make a transition to third base during the fall practice schedule
Sept. 27, 2012
Boca Raton, FL - The Florida Atlantic University baseball team will begin defense of last season's Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship when it hits the diamond to begin fall practices on Sunday, September 30.
The team returns a strong core group of players from last year's title squad, but there are still key positions to watch as the Owls prepare for the spring season.
"The biggest thing you want is the players to exit the fall healthy," said John McCormack, FAU's head baseball coach. "So far, this has been the best team in handling all of the demands to have a successful fall practice. The guys are doing things the right way. It allows us more time to focus on coaching them in individual drills and bringing improved skills to help the team."
Last fall, Mike Albaladejo made the adjustment from catcher, where he had been a three-year starting player, to second base, where he earned all-SBC honors last spring. Abby's graduation opens a position for one-half of the team's double-play combination.
Who might be making a similar position change this fall?
Sophomore Ricky Santiago could move to the hot corner at third base after seeing action last spring in shortstop and second base positions. He is coming off an all-star performance this summer at shortstop in the Valley League.
FAU also looks to fill holes in its starting and relief pitching corps after all-SBC performers Ryan Garton and R.J. Alvarez were selected in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft. Anxious to get back on the mound will be redshirt senior reliever Hugh Adams, who missed last season with an injury. The right hander had a successful summer season for the Bethesda Big Train, and earned All-SBC and All-South Central region honors in 2011.
Kevin Alexander and Austin Gomber should form a solid pitching rotation after being in the starting rotation last season. Redshirt junior Jeremy Strawn can be used as a starter or reliever after making just two appearances in an injury-shortened sophomore season. Bo Logan and Michael Sylvestri are other returning players looking to solidify roles on the 2013 team.
"Jeremy and Hugh are good pitchers and have put together strong bullpen sessions in the preseason," noted McCormack. "The biggest key for each player is getting innings for them on the mound."
Key returning positional starters are all-conference catcher Mike Spano; outfielders Corey Keller, Geoff Jimenez and Nathan Pittman; and infielders Mitch Morales and Mark Nelson. Keller and Jimenez used strong fall seasons last year to propel them into successful springs.
The fall season allows McCormack and his staff to examine several newcomers and find where they might help the team during the upcoming season.
"The new guys have woven nicely into the team. The players' work during skill sessions has confirmed our evaluations during the recruiting process," said McCormack. "The fall lets the players conduct self-evaluation and understand what type of player they'll be in the spring."
The Owls are scheduled to play one exhibition game this fall, facing Team British Columbia on October 24, before the annual four-game intra-squad World Series on November 7-10.