By Troy MacNeill | firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2015, the Flagler College baseball team had one of its best seasons ever. Head Coach David Barnett is pushing for even greater success this year.
“I hope the returning players got a taste of winning and are hungry for more,” he said.
The Saints ended last season with a 32-15 record and qualified for the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. The Saints were nationally ranked for 11 consecutive weeks. Players excelled off the field, too. Five team members made the Academic All-Conference team.
Barnett urges his team to stay prepared and remember how it felt to win last year.
“Winning is fun. This is a great program and we can continue to win,” said Barnett. “I hope the returners pass what the Peach Belt Conference is all about on to the new players.”
Key returning players that the Saints look to lead them to victory are Mike O’Reilly, Lorenzo Butler and Kolin McMiller, among others. O’Reilly was named the league’s pitcher of the year and earned the nickname, “Mr. Peach Belt,” in 2015.
“We have to build off of last year’s leaders,” said first baseman James Jean, a senior. “Lorenzo and Kolin are coming back as leaders and Mike is our ace. We look to them to lead us.”
Flagler lost a few key seniors and captains from last year, including Andrew “Opie” Brodbeck, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round of the MLB draft in 2015.
“Losing Opie and all the other seniors is tough, but it means we just have to work harder,” said Jean. “We have to build with the freshmen and incoming players and put the hard-working mentality into the whole team.”
Barnett hopes that some of the senior leaders can also teach these new players a few things about playing in the Peach Belt Conference.
“Guys like Nick Oberg, Mike O’Reilly, Frankie Sagarese and others, I hope they can make sure these guys play hard in this conference,” said Barnett. “I hope they make sure these guys don’t take it for granted.”
Coaches say the Peach Belt Conference is one of the toughest Division II baseball conferences in the NCAA. And transitioning from the high school level up to college is always difficult, but Barnett believes his new players will be ready.
“It’s a whole new level. They have to elevate their games,” said Barnett. “The best players can make adjustments and elevate, and I think these guys will be able to do that.”
Players say the start to this season was rough, with only one win in the team’s first five games.
The Saints’ record now stands at 4-5. However, the players and coaches are optimistic and ready to make the necessary adjustments to get back to their winning ways.
“We have great pitchers and great all around players,” said Jean. “We are looking to our strong pitching staff to lead us and we just have to do our job together as a team.”
“We left too many guys in scoring position and we need to work on our hitting, but we will fix that,” he said. “We have to continue to build is all.”
Barnett is looking to continue his success with the Saints in his 29th season as the head coach. Already the winningest coach in the program’s history with a record of 830-672, Barnett continues to do it for the love of the game.
“I’m a baseball junkie. It’s what I do and all I know,” he said. “I like seeing the program grow and as long as we keep winning and keep having fun, I’ll keep doing it.”
The Saints next game is set for Feb. 26 when the team hosts Nova Southeastern.