2016 Baseball PREVIEW

2016 Baseball PREVIEW

OCALA--After just missing out on a second consecutive trip to the FCSAA/Region VIII Tournament, the College of Central Florida baseball team will attempt to combine the old and the new in order to make a return trip.

A solid group of newcomers joins a standout group of returning players for the Patriots, who also welcome back several key players from their last state tournament team from two years ago.

"I am excited and I feel that we have a lot of depth," said CF baseball coach Marty Smith, who is entering his 22nd season as the head coach of the program. "I hope we have some battles for positions and these guys make it real hard for me to fill out a lineup card each day."

A year ago, CF tied for third in the Mid-Florida Conference, but missed out on a chance at the postseason.

The Patriots went 1-3 against Daytona State, the team they tied for third with, therefore, were unable to move on as the MFC's Wild Card team.

CF will have a little added punch this season, as Connor Crile, N.J. Williamson and Robby Frantzis all return after redshirting last season.

In 2014, each of the aforementioned players played a role in helping CF finish third in the state.

"We're hoping to get some leadership from our returning guys and we know they are hungry (after making it to states two years ago," Smith said.

As for what type of team he has in compared to the past, Smith said it is a wait-and-see type of deal.

"It's hard to say which team of the past this compares to," he said. "You can't really tell until they get into some situations and have to face adversity.

"Our team two years ago picked it up later in the season and that is the time that you want to be playing your best."

CF will have to come together against a formidable conference lineup that features the likes of Santa Fe and St. Johns River.

"Those teams are always tough," Smith said. "But if you look at it, everyone in our conference is tough. It all comes down to pitching and matchups. There are no easy wins in conference."

To help make things easier, CF has several key standouts back.

Luke Heyer (3B), Dalton Mauldin (2B/SS), David Lebron (P), Cooper Wallace (P) and Octavio Mirabal (P) are players who had strong years for the Patriots in 2015.

Heyer is the leading returning run producer for CF, while Lebron, who like Crile is a University of Tampa signee, had an impact on the mound.​

Vincent Addona (2B/SS), John Cassala (1B), Evan Holland (RF), B.J. Harmon (CF), Bradley Felkel (OF/DH), Ryan Knowles (3B/P), Kevin Gomez (C), Will Reddick (C) and Kyle Jeknins (C) are among the newcomers in the mix to make an impact as far as position players.

Addona, a transfer from William Mary, has made his presence felt at the plate and in the field, while Cassala lead the team in home runs and RBI during the fall.

Knowles will see some time as CF's closer and Holland, a Florida International transfer, takes the spot of Christian Khawam, who signed with FIU.

All three of CF's catchers joined the program at the break and are in competition for the starting spot. 

In terms of newcomers on the mound, Jackson Stoeckinger, a lefthander from Kentucky, joins Ryan Aspinwall as players to watch.

Aspinwall won two games in the final four a year ago and led Jacksonville Trinity Christian to a state championship. 

Others who have a chance to make an impact for CF include Garrett Wright (OF), Levi Hollingsworth (1B) and Kyle Hansen (P).

The Patriots open the regular season on the road this Sunday against No.15 Palm Beach State. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m.

CF's home opener takes place February 5 against South Florida State beginning at 3 p.m., followed by a home doubleheader against Palm Beach State on Saturday, February 6 at noon and 2 p.m.

Follow the action all season long via live stats on GameChanger and up-to-date news and results at www.cfpatriots.net.