FORT MYERS, Fla. – Taking all 10 Atlantic Sun Conference series in 2010, the FGCU Baseball team will look to improve upon last year’s 25-5 league mark by welcoming back seven position veterans and nine additions to the squad that recorded the fewest strikeouts (338) and held the best fielding percentage (.972) in the A-Sun.
Losing one position player in Josh Chester to graduation, the Eagles are poised to make another run at an A-Sun championship by retaining their core group of infielders and outfielders.
FGCU should have the middle infield on lock with the return of two senior preseason All-Conference selections in shortstop Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Secondary) and second baseman Mikel Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS). A 2010 A-Sun first team selection, Wickens wrapped up his junior season batting .359 with a .435 on-base percentage after leading the team with 256 at-bats from the leadoff position. Aside from swiping a team-leading 18 bases, the middle infielder also ranked among the conference best with a .962 fielding percentage and held a team-best 13 sacrifice hits. With the team’s best batting average a season ago (.409) in the number two spot, Alvarez joins Wickens in the middle infield holding a .981 fielding percentage. Alvarez stole 11 bases in 13 attempts and also topped the team with 63 runs scored and a school record 99 hits last season.
The corner infield spots also feature three student-athletes in the final year of their collegiate careers, as Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./Pasco Hernando CC) will start the year at first base and classmates Tim Roberson (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) and Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla./South Florida CC) figure to rotate at third. Maxfield was a second team All-Conference performer in 2010, ending the year with a .366 average while hitting 11 round-trippers with team-bests in slugging percentage (.606), walks (48) and on base percentage (.489). Matching Wickens at-bat total (256) to lead the team, Roberson also led the squad with 13 home runs, 63 RBI and 142 total bases while batting .332. Maxfield and Roberson should fill the middle part of the lineup for the Eagles again in 2011. A utility player that will see time in at third, on the mound and in the outfield, Gaines is an all-around player that topped the team with 22 doubles last season while batting .324, adding six home runs and driving in 51 runs.
Proven players step in behind the dish as well, as the Eagles bring back sophomore Mike Reeves (Peterborough, Ontario/St. Peter’s Secondary) and redshirt senior Robert Greene (Cape Coral, Fla./Mariner HS) at the catcher position. A 2009 draftee of the Toronto Blue Jays, Reeves returns from an injury-shortened rookie campaign where he batted .301 with 27 runs scored and 21 RBI in 93 at-bats. The injury bug also struck Greene, who competed in 16 contests before deciding to shut it down for the year. Starting all 54 contests in 2009, Green pounded 14 home runs while adding 51 runs scored and driving in 39 runs in 200 at-bats.
In the outfield grass the Blue and Green appear to have some new faces donning Eagle uniforms this year. Freshmen Sean Dwyer (Leesburg, Fla./Tavares HS) and Jake Foley (Berlin, Conn./St. Petersburg College) step in to take the left field and center field duties, respectively. Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 15th round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Dwyer spent the off-season in the esteemed Northwoods Summer League where he hit .291 over 42 games with 43 hits, 25 runs scored, 10 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 20 RBI. Heading into his senior campaign at Charlotte High School, Foley was named a 2010 Under Armour Preseason All-American. The newcomer went on to hit .410 with four home runs during senior season, adding to sophomore and junior seasons that saw .490 batting averages. Depending on the combination of infield positioning and pitching rotation, Gaines and junior transfer Javi Sujo (Miami, Fla./Miami Sunset HS/Middle Georgia College) look to fill the right fielder responsibilities this season. Sujo comes to FGCU after two seasons at Middle Georgia College, where he hit .478 with nine home runs and 73 RBI, including five grand slams.
Selected in the 40th round by the Washington Nationals, freshman Alex Diaz (Miami, Fla./Ferguson HS) will split time on the mound with infield appearances to begin the year. Other freshmen newcomers include infielders Tyler Anderson (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa HS), Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS), Wesley Sargent (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake HS), and Brian Walker (Deerfield Beach, Fla./Highlands Christian Academy), outfielder Kirby Retzer (Boca Raton, Fla./Boca Raton HS), as well as, catchers Jorge Lopez (Melbourne, Fla./Florida Air Academy) and Andrew Valencia (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep).
Just a few days remain before the season gets underway, as the Eagles host the Central Michigan Chippewas in the first of a four-game set on Friday, Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Swanson Stadium. Results and recaps from the season opener will be available at www.FGCUAthletics.com following the competition.