By Kenny Ray | firstname.lastname@example.org
A chance at the playoffs may give the Saints baseball program the drive to reach the postseason after finishing 25-25 last year.
Last spring, the Saints pitching staff had an ERA higher than 5.0.
“[We] always try to finish with an ERA under 4.5,” Assistant Coach Cory Domel said.
The bullpen lost two starters and closer Brandon Rapoza, who was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers. The Saints are looking for Johnny Gaines, a transfer from Hillsborough Community College, to fill in as one of those missing starters.
The Saints pitching staff will be their strongest asset this season along with a solid defense.
Offensively, the Saints finished with a batting average under .250, which was considerably lower than their average the last four years (.290).
With four senior position players gone, the Saints are looking to first baseman John Sgromolo, outfielder Jarrod Simmons, utility player Cade Smith and returning sophomore Taylor Mathis to step up and be key players for the offense.
Kyle Foti had the team’s highest average at .333 but started in just 19 games.
“Foti will be in the top two [in hitting]… the number one guy I really put my emphasis on, is John Sgromolo,” Assistant Coach Michael Fryrear said.
Sam Bridgmen and Payne Maddox are being counted on as well to continue their solid slugging for the Saints.
Defensively, key returning players are senior pitchers John Goryl (5-3) and Austin Donmoyer (5-5). Donmoyer led the team with the lowest ERA.
Having a chance at the playoffs sends a little more energy to any team, especially the Saints.
“We’re a little bit more motivated,” Maddox said.
Joey Rivera couldn’t agree more. “We didn’t really have anything to play for [last year,] it’s a lot better actually having something to look forward to.”
The Saints will start with nine of their first 10 games at home. The season will kick off Friday, Feb. 6 against West Florida.