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Season Preview: Eagles Look to Claim Their Third Consecutive A-Sun Crown
The Eagles finished with a 36-18 record last season, including a 23-7 record in conference play. Head coach Dave Tollett earned A-Sun Coach of the Year honors, while four Eagles were named to the All-Atlantic Sun First-Team. The Eagles enter their third year as a member of Division I, and have already claimed two A-Sun regular season titles. This season, the No. 25 Eagles will be eligible for postseason play for the first time in the program’s history. The Eagles look to defend their back-to-back A-Sun regular season titles as they welcome 12 newcomers to a squad that returns seven position starters and four starting pitchers
Chris Sale earned Atlantic Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year honors in a unanimous vote befitting the status of the Ping!Baseball and Louisville Slugger preseason All-American. The College Baseball Blog listed Sale as the fourth-best player in the nation and as the top left-handed starting pitcher. Sale earned first-team all-conference honors a season ago after posting a 7-4 record with a 2.72 ERA. The criminal justice major earned the Pitcher of the Year honor during the summer in the talent-rich Cape Cod league. Baseball America named Sale the Top Prospect in the Cape Cod league after the lefthander earned MVP honors in the league’s All-Star game.
Zach Maxfield burst on to the A-Sun scene a season ago, leading the conference in home runs with 20 while driving in a team-high 66 runs for the Eagles. The power-hitting first baseman grabbed preseason player of the year honors and picked up preseason all-conference honors after earning first-team all conference honors a season ago at the designated hitter position. The Northport, Fla. native ranked as one of only four underclassmen on the 2009 all-conference squad, joining his teammates Sale, Tim Roberson and ETSU’s Paul Hoilman.
Tim Roberson joins his fellow FGCU juniors on the preseason all-conference team at the third base position. The West Palm Beach, Fla. native ranked second in the A-Sun in 2009 in home runs, just one behind Maxfield. Roberson ranked fifth in the league in RBIs a season ago with 18 multiple RBI games, including eight contests in which he drove in three or more runs.
Robert Greene (Cape Coral, Fla.) rounds out the quartet of Eagles on the preseason all-conference team. Greene played in all 54 games a season ago for FGCU and the junior spent 53 of those contest behind the plate for the team picked atop of the preseason coaches’ poll. Greene hit 14 home runs and combined with Roberson and Maxfield total the trio hit more round trippers than three A-Sun teams in 2009.
#1 Luke Smierciak / Tallahassee CC / Gainesville, Fla. / OF/P
Played one season at Tallahassee Community College…. Played one year at Florida State University... Five Starts on the year.... Made collegiate debut against Florida… A two-sport star at Gainesville High School, competing in both football and baseball…posted a remarkable 18-2 record on the mound in his high school career…was named a second team All-American by Rawlings, earned first team All-State honors and was a fi rst team All-Region honoree in the state of Florida as a senior…received MVP and Pitcher of the Year accolades as a senior after posting a 10-0 mark and hitting .478 with 19 doubles…batted .485 as a junior and was also 6-2 with 107 strikeouts on the hill en route to claiming MVP honors and second team All-State recognition…earned Gatorade Rookie of the Year honors, was named ESPN Athlete of the Week twice and earned a spot on the All-State third team as a sophomore…also that season was given his football team’s leadership award and was named Offensive Player of the Year…member of the Key Club and a three-year honor roll student.
#6 Alex Lozada / Polk CC / Estero, Fla. / OF
Played two seasons at Polk Community College… All County selection in both baseball and football…Named second team All-State and second team All-Conference...Hit .329 as a senior.
#7 Mike Reeves / St. Peters Secondary School / Peterborough, Ontario / C
Named to Premiere Baseball League All-Star Team.... Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays
#17 Rob Matthews / Broward CC / Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / P
Transferred from Broward Community College… Named Most Valuable Player of High School Team... Named First Team All-State... Earned Boca Raton Player of the Year Honors... Named First Team All-County
#21 Austin Gaines / South Florida CC / Dunedin, Fla. / INF
Played two years at South Florida Community College… Named Freshman of the Year in 2004... Selected Second Team All-County in 2005... Named to First Team All-County in 2006... Selected as Team Captain for Senior Season... Earned First Team All-County and Offensive Player of the Year in 2007.
#34 Eric Acevedo / American Heritage HS / Miami, Fla. / OF/INF
Named first team All-County and second team All-State three straight years…Committed just one error as a senior…Won a state championship during junior year…Hit two home runs in the 2009 State Finals
#37 Kevin Bryant / South Dade Senior High School / Homestead, Fla. / LHP
Kevin threw a no-hitter in 2008 which helped him earn the honor of Pitching MVP for South Dade Senior High Class 6A. Named Pitcher of the Year, All Dade as a senior…Graduated in the top 3% of his class.
#39 RJ Brown / Bloomingdale High School / Brandon, Fla. / LHP
All Hillsborough County Honorable Mention… Selected to All-County Team in consecutive seasons.... Named High School Team Most Valuable Player... Participated in High School All-Star Game... Member of AAU National Championship Team
The Eagles’ 55 game slate features six games against ACC competition, four games against Sun Belt teams, three games against the Missouri Valley Conference and the Atlantic 10, two games against the Big 12, along with single games against the SEC, Big East, and Big 10.
The Eagles will open the 2010 season at home on Feb. 19-21 with a three-game series against Temple at Swanson Stadium before traveling south to face Miami in their first of two meetings on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The Hurricanes will travel to Fort Myers on Apr. 14 for the second meeting between the schools. Miami earned a berth in the 2009 NCAA Regionals, ranking as high as No. 2 in the nation and posting a 38-22 record last season.
After their first road trip, the Eagles land back home to host a four-game set with Sacred Heart on Feb. 26-28. The series includes a double-header on Feb. 27.
On Mar. 3, FGCU hosts Michigan in the first meeting between the two schools. After that, the Eagles hit the road to face Wichita State on Mar. 5-7. The Eagles will play a three-game series against the 2009 Missouri Valley Conference champions, who lost two one-run games in the 2009 NCAA Regionals.
The Eagles open A-Sun conference play on the road against USC Upstate on Mar. 12-13. The Eagles have an all-time winning record against nine of the ten A-Sun opponents they face; against Belmont, FGCU owns a 3-3 all-time mark.
Following a mid-week home game against FIU on Mar. 16 at Swanson Stadium, the Eagles travel to Stetson for a weekend A-Sun matchup from Mar. 19-20. Along with FIU (Mar. 16 and May 18), FGCU will also face Sun Belt foe FAU (Apr. 20 and May 11).
The Eagles stay on the road to face Florida on Mar. 24 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida advanced to the NCAA Super Regional last season but fell to Southern Mississippi in two games. The Eagles have a 1-1 record against the Gators after each team earned road wins last season.
FGCU will host A-Sun foe Kennesaw State on Mar. 26-27 for the first time at Swanson Stadium. In the Eagles first two seasons, FGCU has beat out the Owls to earn back-to-back regular season titles.
Although Chris Sale gets the most attention of the Eagles’ junior class, the quintet of FGCU offensive juniors has been very productive. In 2009, Mikel Alvarez, Bobby Green, Zach Maxfield, Tim Roberson and Stephen Wickens combined for 55 home runs and 250 RBIs. The 55 home runs rated as more than 74-percent of the team’s total and the five combined to slug .543. The 55 round-trippers by the five junior starters rank better than 175 teams in NCAA division I.