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Published on April 11th, 2017 | by Zachary Smith

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FSC Baseball’s Streak Ends, but Winning Mentality Remains

Florida Southern baseball had its historic win streak come to a close against Rollins College at Henley Field on April 7.

Rollins triumphed over the Moccasins by a score of 11-9 in the first game of the three-game series. Rollins and FSC split the remaining two games in the series on the following day. Prior to the series against Rollins, FSC was one of the hottest teams in college baseball.

The team won each of its previous 17 games before dropping the series against Rollins. The 17-game win streak was the longest since the 2005 team won its first 18 games to start the season.

The 17-game win streak was the team’s fourth longest in the program’s history. The record win streak remains at 28 games, which was set by the 1981 team.

The 2005 team went on to win the national championship, and the 1981 team also took home the national championship.

The team’s impressive win streak pushed Florida Southern into the top 10 of the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper rankings and to No. 12 in the NCAA Division II Baseball rankings.

The Mocs were also ranked as a high as No. 3 in the NCAA’s first Division II Baseball Power Rankings.

Despite the winning streak coming to a close, head coach Lance Niekro said the winning streak was a fantastic achievement for his team.

“When you win 17 games in a row, it doesn’t matter who you are playing, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing a little-league team every night, just to win 17 games in a row is an accomplishment,” Niekro said. “It was fun for our guys. We felt like any game that was a close game was a game we could win, and winning is contagious.”

Infielder Jason Sierra said the team has tried to keep a stable mentality each game, which he said has been pivotal to the team success this season.

“We’ve tried to play every game like it’s the first game of the year, like it’s opening day,” Sierra said. “We’ve gone into every game the same and not play down to any talent or play up to any talent. We’ve tried to stay very even keel.”

Despite the team’s recent impressive run, the FSC’s baseball program enjoyed its fair share of struggles earlier this season.

After opening the season with an 8-2 record and sweeps of Claflin University and the University of West Florida, FSC suffered four straight defeats. The four-game losing skid included a sweep at the hands of Lynn University and a loss to Flagler College.

Pitcher Logan Browning said the morale after losing four straight games was low, but the team refused to let the low morale to persist.

“It was pretty deflating, and when we got swept we just felt like nothing was clicking at all,” Browning said. “So we thought, ‘alright what now,’ and headed back to drawing board. We had some rough practices after that and we just ran a little bit, got the anger out and we ended up coming back together from it.”

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Niekro said effective starting pitching helped his team win 17 straight games. Browning (above) has struck out 70 batters in just 10 appearances this season.

In addition to the players’ desire to bounce back, Niekro decided to take matters into his own hands and instill a more season-defining change within his team.

After the four-game losing skid, Niekro said he and his coaching staff noticed a lack of unity within the team that needed to be changed.

Niekro took away the luxuries from the team’s clubhouse in hopes to bring the team closer together. The luxuries included televisions, couches, a Ping-Pong table, stools and phones.

Niekro said he wanted his players to get to know each other on more than just a baseball level. Niekro said he hoped that in removing the distractions, he would instill more unity amongst his players and more willingness from his players to step onto the field and fight harder for one another.

That decision appeared to pay off. FSC has won 18 of its last 20 games as the team enters its final month of the regular season.

In addition to the on-field success, Niekro said his did in fact begin to see his players bond in the locker room. Niekro said players created their own new games to play in the locker room, started a bible study and worked on homework together.

Niekro said he is thankful to have his team come closer together this season, and he said he is apprehensive to return those luxuries to his team as the final stage of the season approaches.

“Once you win 17 in a row, it’s hard to give that stuff back because you don’t want to mess up the mojo, but no matter how this season ends, it has brought us closer together as a team,” Niekro said.

Florida Southern baseball will hit the road to take on Lander University three-game series starting on April 14. The team will return to Henley Field on April 21 to take on the University of Tampa in a three-game Sunshine State Conference series.

 

Related

FSC Baseball Boosts Lineup with Transfers

FSC Women’s Lacrosse Wins Nine Straight Games

Read/Watch: FSC Baseball vs. Detroit Tigers

View: FSC Softball Struggles Continue at Off-Campus Home

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