MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – Coming off a 31-19 season and a third place finish in the Sunshine State Conference, head coach Marc Pavao and the Barry Baseball team are ready to get back to the NCAA tournament in 2014.
The road back to the post-season begins Saturday when Barry plays host to Shorter University in a double-header set to start at 1 pm.
The 2013 campaign was filled with questions as many young and inexperienced players were being asked to contribute from the start. The young Bucs answered the call and with a full season of collegiate baseball under their belt the Buccaneers are primed for an exciting season.
Pavao and his staff have always stressed player development as they continue to mold young players into high-caliber players, but never has this been more evident. Barry returns five starting position players and numerous young arms in what should be a very deep pitching staff.
However, the man leading the young talent is three-year starter, All-American Adrian English who had a breakout season in 2013 for the Bucs leading the Sunshine State Conference in several offensive categories including batting-average.
English has bounced around the infield throughout his career with the Buccaneers, but he is expected to hold down the hot-corner while also anchoring the middle of the Bucs’ lineup.
Across the infield is another senior in Tyler Kellmann who enters his second season with Buccaneers. The All-Region selection a year ago is not only a strong defender at first base, but will serve as a run producer in the middle of the lineup with another left-handed bat with gap and power potential.
Kellmann and English serve as veteran leaders for the Bucs, but a number of the young players on this team have adapted to the collegiate game after seeing significant playing time as rookies a year ago.
Slick-fielding shortstop J.C. Cardenas returns after a break-out season for the Bucs as a freshman. Entering the season it was evident that Cardenas would develop into one of the better defensive shortstops in the conference from the start, but the question was would he be able to adapt to the college game offensively.
Cardenas put all of those questions to rest as the switch-hitter finished with a .316 average in 48 games for the Bucs.
The two main holes to fill in the infield are at second base and behind the dish, but coach Pavao and his staff have brought in a mix of veteran transfers and talented freshman to address the needs.
Khalil Denson, a freshman from Los Angeles, Calif. is the frontrunner to claim the starting nod at second base come opening day, with another switch hitter in Branden Shaw out of Broward CC also vying for time up the middle as well.
Shaw is not a prototypical second baseman as he boast tremendous power to both fields and may be the fastest player on the roster. His speed and athleticism are certainly attributes that the Bucs will take advantage of this season.
Replacing Luis Arrizurieta behind the plate will be Greg Brodzinski, a transfer from Kirkwood CC, and Danny Nunez. Brodzinski brings power to the lineup and has adequate experience at the junior college level at catcher.
Platooning the outfield will be a mix of familiar faces with a few newcomers. Sheehan Planas-Arteaga has played both right-field and first-base in his two seasons in a Buccaneer uniform, but he’s likely to man the outfield once again. Planas made the move into the leadoff spot in the lineup a third of the way into the season last year and as a result Planas led the Bucs with a .477 on-base-percentage.
The lefty finished second on the team with a .367 average in route to a Second-Team All-SSC selection and is likely to be the “table-setter” at the top of the lineup once again this season.
Michael Diaz is yet another sophomore coming off of a solid freshman campaign in which he hit just under .300 and served as a consistent defender in the outfield playing both left and center for the Bucs. Diaz is expected to once again to compete for a starting outfield role and will use his speed not only defensively, but also to wreak havoc on the bases as well.
Newcomers Carlos Matamoros and Will Walker are sure to be part of the equation in the outfield as well. Matamoros transfers to Barry by way of South Florida State College and possesses a mix of speed and power while also showing signs of great plate discipline.
Walker has also proven his ability to hit at the junior college level where he led his team at Enterprise with 34 RBI, belting four homers and hitting .305 as a sophomore in 2012.
Shifting the focus to pitching, the Buccaneers should have plenty of options on the mound between starters and relievers. Calvin Rayburn leads the staff and returns for his senior season after a 9-2 record a year ago, earning him Second-Team All-SSC and Second-Team All-Region honors.
The hard-throwing righty will be joined by Billy Atkins who may have been the biggest surprise of 2013. As a freshman, Atkins worked his way from the bullpen, early on, into the starting rotation and never looked back.
Atkins led the Bus with a 3.45 ERA, 75.2 innings pitched and 52 strikeouts and claimed First-Team All-SSC honors.
Southpaw Joeanthony Rivera and Joe Iorio and Adrian Benitez are likely to join Tyler Petsch as go-to relievers after experiencing plenty of success this past summer in their respective collegiate baseball summer leagues and are all capable of competing for the starting rotation as well.
Of the newcomer, Jesse Montalto is expected to eat-up innings as part of the Buccaneers’ rotation. Montalto has shown great command of the strike zone in his previous stops at Lackawanna College.Only time will tell how the Bucs’ pitching rotation and bullpen will shape out, but the good news for Pavao and his staff is the amount of quality arms and depth the staff has to offer.