After losing six players to the Major League Baseball draft last season, this year’s Sharks team isn’t boasting the star power it had last season.
But head coach Danny Price is unfazed by the team’s attrition. He is confident the Sharks are a stronger team.
“This year, I think we’ll be solid on the mound and better defensively,” Price said. “We’ll really have to be precise on hitting because we don’t have anyone to carry us offensively. We have two proven players coming back but that doesn’t mean that they will be the best offensive players coming back.”
Outfielder Luis Guerrero and utility player Mike Alicea, both sophomores, who had a batting average of .348 and .369 with 48 and 38 RBI respectively, last year, will be counted on to carry the brunt of the team’s offense and the leadership mantle.
The team is cognizant that starpower doesn’t always lead to success. Last year, after a 35-win regular season, the Sharks floundered at the state tournament. They were eliminated in the second round after losing 12-3 to Hillsborough Community College.
Despite the Sharks’ impressive win total during the regular season, the team was plagued with a bevy of ups and downs.
“We won 10 in a row, we lost six in a row, we won 11 in a row, and then we got iffy,” Price said at the end of last season.
This year’s team is hoping to to develop its identity through stronger defensive play to keep scores low while counting on lesser-known players to overcome expectations and provide reliable hitting.
With only ten returning sophomores on a roster of 26 , the freshmen will have plenty of opportunities to prove they can exceed expectations.
Price said most positions on the team are not yet settled, encouraging players to compete for playing time.
“Each day we’re going to have to practice hard and play harder,” Price said. “Everything is up for grabs and we gotta go from there. I know people don’t want to hear that, but that’s the truth. I think we got some really good challenges but we pride ourselves on playing an outstanding schedule and we understand that playing a strong schedule will prepare us for our conference.”
Although the team is still searching for its offensive firepower, their performance during fall scrimmages has led to higher expectations.
“Everything in the fall went as expected,” Alicea said. “We’re going to have a better season than last year because we’re coming into the season with a stronger team.”
Coaches and players said this team has an underdog mentality. They are eager to put together a successful campaign and finish stronger than last year.
“Even if we know we may not be the most talented or the biggest and strongest, we know who we are and we’ve been working hard to show that we can beat whatever team is in front of us,” Guerrero said.
The Sharks next game is versus ASA College at the Kendall Campus baseball field, 11011 S.W. 104th St., on Jan. 30 at 2 p.m.