Baseball looks to build on 2018 season

Mocs picked to finish second in the SSC in pre-season coaches poll

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Mikaela Queen

After finishing third in the nation last season, the Mocs are anticipated to finish second behind University of Tampa in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) this season. The team finished last season with a 45-11-1 record along with the South Region title. 

The Mocs lost Logan Browning, J.T. Hintzen and Hayden Marze, who played vital roles on the team defensively and offensively. 

Browning made major contributions on the mound as well as in right field and at the plate. The Lakeland local was picked in the 24th round of the MLB draft by the Red Socks.  

Hintzen also made moves on the mound as a relief pitcher and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 10th round of the MLB draft. 

Marze, a transfer from Mississippi State University, set the Mocs bats on fire as he hit 22 home runs during the season, two of those in the NCAA World Series.

The Mocs bring back 2018 SSC Freshman of the Year Jacob Teter, senior short-stop Pablo Cabrera and starting pitchers J.J. Niekro and Thomas Spinelli. 

Teter said that the senior duo of  Cabrera and Ryan Frost are carrying out traditions as they now lead the team as captains. The team has spent most of the fall getting to know each other, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. 

Teter was awarded the honor of 2018 Freshman of the Year for the Sunshine State Conference. He started in all of the Moccasins 57 games, had 12 home runs and 130 total bases. 

“I like to use that award as a stepping stone and a reminder of what it takes to even be in contention for a conference accolade,” Teter said.  

Niekro is currently battling an elbow injury and will be out for the first half of the season. He said that he will play as a leader for the young guys “to get used to the college grind.”

Just because he isn’t able to compete on the field doesn’t mean he won’t be contributing to wins by being a vocal leader for the team.

Nearly half of the team is new to FSC this year as the team brought in a large freshmen class and had a significant number of transfers.

Niekro said the addition of Cooper Bradford and Carson King will help boost the pitching rotation. 

“The morale is really upbeat, were all expecting another deep run in the playoffs this year and to bring home the national championship,” Niekro said. 

The Mocs open up their season on Feb. 1 at University of West Florida with a three-game series. 

The team has their home opener in a non-conference game against Eckerd on Feb. 5 at Henley Field in Lakeland.

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