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Baseball Preview: Cincinnati at FAU

Ready for some Baseball?
With the 2010 baseball season set to start on Friday, the Owls will look to put last season's woes behind them when they face Big East opponent Cincinnati.

With freshly drawn chalk lines, the Owls will take the field against the Bearcats for what most hope will be the beginning of  a promising season, and a successful return to the post season after being snubbed last year.

“We’re excited to get things started” said head Baseball coach John McCormack, as he embarks on his second year at the helm of Owl baseball. It also marks McCormack’s 20th year as a member of the Owls baseball coaching staff.

Inside the Owls Dugout
With 18 newcomers and 2/3 of the rotation beaming with fresh faces, the Owl will turn to two veterans for leadership; captains  - catcher Mike Albaladejo and right-hander Lou Morey, who was winner of the 2010 “Iron Owl” award for the second-consecutive season. The “Iron Owl” represents a competition that identifies the strongest Owl baseball player, both mentally and physically.

McCormack had this to say about his captains, "both those guys were voted in as captains by their teamates.  Lou leads by example, he works extremely hard and is nothing but a joy to be around.  Mike on the other hand is a fiery guy.  He brings a lot to the table and he's a natural leader behind the plate."

Looking to continue their offensive prowess, the Owls return four starters who batted .300 last season in shortstop Nick DeGuidice, outfielder Colby Gratton, infielder Sean Bukovick and co-captain Albaladejo.

But the main area the Owls will look to for more stability and better overall performance this season is from the rubber. FAU will pair a couple of junior starting pitchers in Mike Gipson and newcomer Taylor Everist.

Everist is a junior college transfer from Tallahassee Community College who is likely to become an integral part in helping to solidify the starting rotation for the Owls.  Everist will brings a lot of energy to the mound and McCormack said that "he's really  competitive, works quickly and is a good athlete; who I  look forward to watch pitch".  Everist will get things started for the Owls Friday night.

Gipson who will get pitching duties on Saturdays will be counted on for his experience on the rubber and "we are fortunate to have him back. He is pitching better then ever", said McCormack.

Rounding out the starting rotation will be Freshman Kevin Alexander, a local product out of Taravella high school from Coral Springs. Owl fans should keep a close eye on Alexander, as he holds much promise and will become a vital part in anchoring the starting rotation.  "I am anxious to see him pitch and watch how he goes about his business.  He's a young guy that understands pitching, who has great secondary stuff .and is a fabulous athlete", McCormack said.

The Owls will need to  improve on last seasons 6.41 team ERA, the highest in program history, if it looks to make a run at a conference championship and return to post season play.  And it does appear this issue was addressed during the off-season.

Inside the Bearcats Dugout
The Bearcats look to continue their ascent to conference prominence as they reach the Big East Baseball Championship in back-to-back seasons for the first time since joining in 2006.

The challenge the Bearcats face will be to replace 57 percent of their homerun production and 45 percent of their RBI totals. It could be a challenge as there will be a larger influx of young players stepping in to make their mark for Cincinnati.

On the rubber for the Bearcats is a pair of seniors on Captain Tyler Smith and Andrew Burkett. Alongside them is junior Dan Jensen and sophomore Brian Sand,  both of whom look to continue their solid performance from a year ago.

The most experienced group returning for the Bearcats is their infielders. Sophomore second baseman T.J. Jones is Cincinnati’s top returning hitter from a year ago after hitting .327 with four home runs and 32 RBI. Alongside Jones will be much improved junior shortstop Chris Peters who hit .252 with three home runs and 31 RBI.

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