NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:
Contact: Mark DeCotis, Athletic Communications
Hopes High as Titans Open 2014 Baseball Season on Saturday
Jan. 28, 2014 - There is no debate when it comes to the quality of NJCAA baseball in Florida and especially when it comes to the Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference.
After all, the conference, in which Eastern Florida State College competes, produced not only the state champion but the national championship runner-up as well in Palm Beach State College.
Interestingly, Palm Beach finished second to conference champion Miami Dade College in the regular season and had to defeat third-place Brevard Community College (now Eastern Florida) in three games of the conference tournament to move on.
And while the natural evolution of NJCAA baseball has brought many new faces to the conference all signs point to little if any dilution of talent which should make for another tough season among Eastern Florida, Broward College, Indian River State, Palm Beach and Miami Dade.
Eastern Florida's appearance in the conference tournament was its first since 2009 en route to a 25-23-1 overall record (11-13 in the conference regular season.) It opens its 24-game conference schedule at Indian River in Fort Pierce on Tuesday, March 4 after a 20-game non-conference season that begins with a home doubleheader against Florida State College Jacksonville at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Admission to Eastern Florida home games at Bruce Bochy Field on the Melbourne Campus is free.
Despite only bringing back five players — four pitchers and catcher Austin Leeney — from last season's team head coach Jeff Tam believes his squad is in synch.
"We have a great group of kids, we have good chemistry," said Tam who is beginning his second full season in charge. "With great chemistry you win a lot of baseball games."
And with hitting, pitching, base running and defense.
"I try to really preach to these kids one pitch at a time, one at bat at a time, one game at a time," Tam said.
"On paper we are very fast, we hit the ball a ton. We have some good returning pitching. I think what is going to be the difference maker for us is having the Kenton Herings, the Chayce Hubbards, Jon Pirizs who were freshmen who stood up and really helped carry the load in certain times of the year (last year). We are looking for three or four freshmen pitchers to do the same thing. I think for us that definitely would be a difference maker.
"This division is very good, it is very deep. It is very hard to win games in this division. You have to play flawless baseball. I think we are capable of it. We have to go one pitch at a time, one at bat at a time. You deal with the result and you move on."
Hering is coming off a productive freshman season and is this year's ace. The right-hander finished 12th in NJCAA Region 8/FCSAA with a 2.10 earned run average and was eighth in strikeouts with 71 en route to a second-team all-conference selection.
Returnees and righties Chayce Hubbard, Jon Piriz and Jordan Lindsay will be expected to contribute leadership and innings along with sophomore transfer and righty Alec Lamrouex who is expected to be this season's closer.
Calling their pitches will be catcher Lenney.
"When you get somebody on the field who is that high energy, that demanding of his pitching staff and his defense it takes a lot of pressure off the coaching staff," Tam said. "It's a blessing to have someone behind the plate with his skill set who can control the game.
"Plus, he's one tough kid."
That's what it takes.
"You've got to play hard for nine innings," Tam said of his coaching philosophy. "You're never out of the game. You've just got to grind it out every pitch, every at bat, every ground ball. We're going to be pushing. We're going to be pressing. We're going to take the game hopefully to the other teams in hopes mistakes are made that way on their end."
After all Tam expects his team's all-around ability to keep it in position to win.
"I think we're going to play very good defense," he said. "We've very fast. I think we're going to steal a lot of bases. I think the routine plays day in and day out will be made. I think we're going to hit, we're going to score a lot of runs. We're going to create havoc on the bases.
"I think you're going to see a lot of hard-nosed players. I think you're going to see them grind it out. You won't see them walk. You won't see them dog it. You are going to see the game played the right way. We demand that as a coaching staff."