The 2013 season did not start the way the Florida Southern College baseball team had planned. Facing an extremely difficult early schedule, the Mocs dropped their first seven games of the campaign.
While they obviously had not planned on such a slow start, head coach Lance Niekro and his staff purposely built such a tough early schedule to prepare the team for conference play, according to junior second baseman Conor Szczerba.
“It definitely wasn’t fun losing our first two series, but we found the things we need to work on and we’ve improved on them a lot,” Szczerba said. “Our coaches purposely scheduled a really difficult schedule at the beginning of the year to prepare us for conference, and I think it did.”
Although the Mocs are yet to play an official conference game, they were able to rebound from the 0-7 start by stringing together five-consecutive wins. FSC carried its winning streak into Cleveland, MI on Feb. 23 for a weekend series against top-ranked Delta State.
Unfortunately for the Mocs, they could not take down the nation’s top-ranked team, losing all three contests against the Statesman. Despite the sweep, Szczerba and his teammates remained competitive throughout the weekend.
“The [Delta State] series obviously didn’t go as we planned, but there was definitely a lot of positives that came from it,” Szczerba said. “We competed with them and we know that we can play with the best teams in the country.”
Szczerba hopes that the competitive series with Delta State will translate into confidence for the Mocs as they head into conference play. Szczerba believes that if the players can learn to trust their abilities as much as their coach does, the team will be very successful.
“Coach [Niekro] is a coach that puts a lot of trust in his players and it makes us want to play hard for him and win,” Szczerba said. “I think we need to believe in ourselves more and trust our abilities and we’ll be a very successful team.”
Currently holding a 5-11 overall record, the Mocs will have a chance at a fresh start as they begin chasing their goals of a conference championship and a regional berth. They open up Sunshine State Conference play tonight when they host Eckerd at 6 p.m. at Henley Field.
“Although we haven’t started off well, our goals are still to win the conference and go to regionals,” Szczerba said. “Once we gel and start believing in ourselves and each other, I think we can definitely reach, and maybe even exceed, our goals this season.”