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After a difficult season, UNF Baseball coach looking for more “consistent” 2025

Before the season began, head coach Joe Mercadante talked about two players he believed would immediately impact the team. 

His answers, as well as those of graduate pitchers Tony Roca and Peter Holden, were spot-on. Roca led the team with an ERA under three, while Holden boasted team-high strikeouts. 

While Holden and Roca were prominent starting pitchers for the Ospreys, one side of the ball didn’t give UNF many chances to win, which was their offense. 

“We certainly pitched it well enough to win more games this year,” Mercadante said.

The Ospreys ranked last in total hits and home runs in the ASUN conference. North Florida started the season with a 13-6 record, but the Ospreys’ record quickly dwindled when conference play came.

North Florida finished the season 21-30, unable to qualify for any postseason play after losing seven of their final eight-weekend series. Most of the Ospreys’ losses down the stretch were to ASUN foes, leading to a 13-17 conference record.

 “Anytime you get into conference play, you’re going to face better competition,” Mercadante said. “The successes you had early on in the season, teams are going to scout them, look at video and make certain adjustments.”

UNF baseball pitcher Tony Roca, pictured here, had the lowest ERA of all UNF pitchers. (Tristan Larrabee) (Tristan Larrabee)

Mercadante laminated the word “adjustments” and the fact his team didn’t make many. 

North Florida also had the least home runs and total hits in the ASUN conference. 

“We’ve got to find ways to be more of an offensive group,” he said.

Mercadante mentioned a team must be better athletically if it doesn’t hit many home runs.

“When you don’t hit a lot of home runs, you need to pressure the defense, steal, bunt, hit and run. Those were things we weren’t very good at this year,” he said.

Mercadante added one of his goals during the offseason is to improve the team’s ability to prevent runs from scoring and offense. He said the offense would sometimes score early in the game and fail to score afterward.

“We couldn’t stay away from the big inning,” Mercadante said. 

Looking ahead to next year, Mercadante said the roster will have a decent turnover. North Florida will lose many impactful seniors, with players such as Holden, Roca, Jakob Runnels and Cherokee Nichols graduating.

Despite this, Mercadante is still confident in finding new players and using current ones more. 

“For those [current players], it’s all about making adjustments,” Mercadante said. “Make that weakness a strength and ultimately come back in the fall and play the game better.”

While Mercadante did say there was some movement on the team regarding the transfer portal, he did not mention any specifics.

As a first-time head coach, Mercadante found his “mentally drained” state after each game to be most surprising. 

“It’s one of those things that kind of wears you out because you’re so engaged,” he said. “So much thinking ahead of what the next move potentially may be.”

Mercadante said the most rewarding part of coaching is seeing his team succeed, which he hopes to see more of next season, which starts in February 2025


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About the Contributors
Ethan Howick
Ethan Howick, Sports Reporter
Ethan Howick is a first-year communications major at the University of North Florida. Ethan has a passion for sports journalism with hopes of becoming a journalist and/or broadcaster for a sports media company someday. During his free time, Ethan enjoys spending time with his family and attending many sporting events with friends.
Riley Platt
Riley Platt, Sports Editor
Riley Platt is a senior University of North Florida multimedia journalism student. A lifelong Jacksonville native, Riley has always had a burning passion for sports, specifically at the collegiate level. He grew up coming to UNF basketball games as early as his middle school days and now gets to cover the Ospreys, living out his childhood dreams. Riley's done a bit of everything with Spinnaker, whether it be writing over 200 articles, doing play-by-play commentary for UNF basketball and even serving as a sports anchor for Spinnaker TV’s weekly Nest News. Riley transitioned from Spinnaker to an internship at the end of the summer 2023 semester and is expected to graduate at the end of 2023. 

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