Osprey baseball in review: a record-breaking season

Joslyn Simmons

Although they fell short in the Atlantic Sun championship final, the UNF baseball team finished 45-16 overall for the season; setting a new Division I program record while several players and Head Coach Laval also won honors.   Photo by Camille Shaw
Although they fell short in the Atlantic Sun championship final, the UNF baseball team finished 45-16 overall for the season; setting a new Division I program record while several players and Head Coach Laval also won honors.
Photo by Camille Shaw

In a baseball season of firsts, which opened up to a slow start, the North Florida Ospreys finished the season by competing in their first ever Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Final. The Ospreys finished 45-16 overall for the season. With 45 wins, the Ospreys set a new Division I program record.

When conference play came the Ospreys moved to the top of the Atlantic Sun Conference going 16-5. With three games left in the season, the Ospreys claimed their first ever Atlantic Sun Conference Regular Season Title after a sweep of the USC Upstate Spartans.

During a rain delayed conference tournament, the Ospreys defeated the Kennesaw State Owls, cross-town rivals the Jacksonville Dolphins and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. As the top ranked seed in the tournament, the Ospreys faced the number two seeded Lipscomb Bisons in the championship final. The Ospreys ended up falling to the Bisons 8-7 after eliminating the Eagles just hours before.

Corbin Olmstead is the first player to be chosen for two different positions in the Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference. Photo by Morgan Purvis
Corbin Olmstead is the first player to be chosen for two different positions in the Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference.
Photo by Morgan Purvis

After the tournament, the Ospreys hoped for an at-large selection bid into the NCAA Regional Tournament, which never came to pass.

“I thought they had a great year,” UNF Athletic Director Lee Moon said. “They won the regular season and I was excited about that and disappointed that we didn’t win the conference tournament. Disappointed we didn’t get an at-large bid because I thought we deserve it.”

The Ospreys did however receive several post-regular season accolades for the season. UNF Head Coach Smoke Laval earned the Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year. Third baseman Trent Higginbothem, designated hitter Corbin Olmstead and outfielder Donnie Dewees were selected to be on the Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference all by unanimous decision.

Olmstead also was selected as a relief pitcher for the Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference. Olmstead became the first player to earn the accolade for two different positions. This is the second-straight year that both Olmstead and Higginbothem have picked up the awards.

Dewees was selected as the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year by unanimous decision. During the season, Dewees was honored as a Golden Spikes semifinalist, Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist and won four Atlantic Sun Player of the Week Awards, which was the most any fielder has ever won in a single season at UNF.

Dewees and Olmstead were selected by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as part of the Louisville Slugger All-American Team.  Dewees finished the season batting .422 and led the nation with 106 hits.  He was slugging .749, had 88 runs, 23 stolen bases, 18 home runs and only 16 strikeouts. Olmstead had nine saves on the season, batted .308 and allowed only one earned run in 35.1 innings pitched.

If Donnie Dewees (left) is selected in the MLB draft, UNF would have back-to-back seasons with a player moving to the major league- Drew Weeks (right) was chosen last season for the Colorado Rockies.  Photos by Morgan Purvis & Joshua Bragenburg
If Donnie Dewees (left) is selected in the MLB draft, UNF would have back-to-back seasons with a player moving to the major league- Drew Weeks (right) was chosen last season for the Colorado Rockies.
Photos by Morgan Purvis & Joshua Bragenburg

With the MLB draft on June 8-10, Dewees is on many draft watch projections. If selected, UNF would have back-to-back seasons with a player moving to the major league. Last season, Drew Weeks went to the Colorado Rockies in the seventh-round. As more Ospreys players get drafted into the majors, the likelihood of better caliber players committing to UNF increases.

This season the Ospreys had 18 redshirted players on the roster. Many were pitchers who were limited to no playing time on the mound.

Ten Ospreys are graduating this season including pitcher Evan Incinelli, third baseman Trent Higginbothem and outfielder Garrick Ferguson.  Many familiar faces for the Ospreys are returning next season for the Ospreys including Olmstead, Nick Karmeris and Patrick Ervin, who provided offensive hitting this season.

During this off-season, 11 Ospreys are playing in summer leagues throughout the country, including the Cape Cod Baseball League and the Northwoods League.

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