By: Jordan Harirchi, Assistant Sports Editor
UNF’s baseball team started its season with a lot to prove, and expectations for the team, ranked No. 130 this year in Division I baseball by the NCAA, are very low.
The team is projected to finish seventh in the Atlantic Sun conference, one place higher than last year’s eighth place finish. No individual player on the team made the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team.
Despite the low expectations and projections by the media, the Ospreys will bring back five position starters and two starting pitchers.
The most important returning player is senior shortstop Andrew Karmeris. Karmeris hit .357 on the season last year, while crushing 11 home-runs, driving in 43 runs and stealing seven bases.
Karmeris played first base last season but was moved to shortstop to account for sophomore Shane Kennedy and UNF graduate Sam Perry’s departure.
Sophomore Alex Bacon, named a freshman All-American last year for both the Louisville Slugger and the National College Baseball Writers Association, also returned to the Ospreys. Bacon had a .352 average, hit nine home runs and had 42 Runs Batted In. Bacon also led the team in runs scored, with 46.
Sophomore Tyler Moore, starting right-handed pitcher, returned to the team. Moore, a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, posted a 4-3 record with a 3.92 Earned Run Average. Among UNF pitchers who pitched 40 or more innings, Moore posted the lowest opponent batting average at .235.
Along with the returning players, the Ospreys have a few newcomers who will contribute. Head Coach Raymond “Smoke” Laval said freshman third baseman/outfielder Drew Weeks will be in the starting line-up. Junior second baseman Joe Weilbruda, a transfer from Midland College, is entrenched at second base, Laval said.
The Ospreys also lost multiple players from last season’s team, due to transfers and graduations. The Ospreys will miss last year’s starting pitchers Robbie Collier and Casey Medlen. The two combined posted a 9-7 record. Collier posted a 4.89 ERA and had a team-high 81 strikeouts last season. Medlen posted a 5.05 ERA and was second on the team with 70 strikeouts.
The Ospreys will also lose sophomore Alex Hernandez, Kennedy and Perry. Hernandez and Kennedy, both on the 2011 Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team, transferred to junior colleges.
The team has a few pitchers who need to get some time on the mound to shake off rust and minor injuries. Pitching depth will be a question, Laval said.
Bacon said the players are confident the talent on the team is of championship caliber. He said he expects the team to be first or second in the conference and is working on bettering himself for the team.
“I’m really trying to walk more than I strike out and swing like hell,” Bacon said.
Bacon had the highest strikeout total on the team, with 45.
Laval, in his second season as head coach of the Ospreys, said the team will be better than last year, but he isn’t sure if they are ready to be dominant.
“We’ll be competitive. I know with everyone it’s wins and losses, like you’re supposed to, but you can’t judge it like that,” Laval said. “If we played the Yankees 10 times, we could still be pretty good and lose nine or all 10.”
Email Jordan Harirchi at [email protected]