Former Rats Continue Winning Tradition
Date: May 24, 2018
Many Division II baseball teams throughout the southeast opened their 2018 schedules over the weekend, including teams from the powerhouse Sunshine State Conference. Located in Florida, the SSC is widely considered as the most talented in the country. Schools from the conference routinely send players to the Florida League each summer. Many of them grabbed headlines with impressive opening week numbers.
- The nationally ranked Florida Southern Mocs began their year with a sweep of West Florida. The roster is dotted with six Florida League alumni including Cody Burgess (four hits, three runs, two HR), Omar Villaman (four hits, two runs, two steals), Pablo Cabrera (two doubles, two runs) and JJ Niekro (1-0, 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 K). Burgess and Cabrera played together for the 2016 Winter Garden Squeeze, while Niekro played last summer for the Diamond Dawgs. Every Florida League fan knows the name Omar Villaman, who in two years as a River Rat set the League's all-time batting average record (.386).
- Nova Southeastern, who won the D-II national championship in 2016, has a slew of Florida League alumni on the roster. The #12 ranked Sharks put on an offensive display over the weekend, scoring 55 runs in four games. Former Leesburg Lightning catcher Brendan Cutting fared the best at the dish of all alums, gathering five hits in twelve at-bats. He had two doubles, a home run, scored five times and drove in five more. On the mound, Devin Conn (2017 Sanford) was a force in his first start of the year, tossing seven shutout innings with 13 strikeouts against #15 Catawba.
- Zach Howard, an outfielder for Embry-Riddle, went deep twice in the Eagles' season opener against Tusculum. He finished his weekend with four hits (single, double, two home runs), three runs scored and a team high five RBI. His teammate, catcher Luis Olivier, had four hits of his own, including two doubles and four RBI. Both players were teammates over the summer as members of the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs.
- Another pair of summer/school teammates enjoyed success in the form of Grant Ashline and Nick Breen of Rollins College. Both players were members of the 2016 Sanford River Rats. In the Tars' opening series against Young Harris, Ashline picked up six hits, including a double and a grand slam. He scored four times and drove in four more. Breen chipped in with five hits, three of which were doubles. He scored twice and knocked in a pair as well as Rollins started the year with a three-game sweep of the Mountain Lions.
- Mark Moclair was incredible for the Tampa Spartans in their opening night win over Bentley on Friday night. The junior righty came on in relief and pitched the final four innings of the ballgame. He allowed only one baserunner on a walk, and did not give up a run or hit while also tallying ten strikeouts. Moclair helped the 2016 Altamonte Springs Boom to the Florida League championship.
- Dillon McCollough of Eckerd College had a strong start for the Tritons, allowing two runs (one earned) over five innings in the team's opener on Friday night. He allowed five hits and struck out seven against two walks. McCollough has led the Tritons in strikeouts each of the last two years, and was the Florida League leader in Ks this past summer as a member of the DeLand Suns.
Other notable performances:
- Max Abramson (Valdosta State, 2015 Winter Park): 3-5, R, HR, 7 RBI
- Joey Arce (FSC-Jax, 2017 Altamonte): 2B, 3B, 2 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB
- Brent Burgess (Middle Georgia, 2017 Leesburg): 1-0, 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K
- Mike Christopolous (Seminole State, 2017 Altamonte): 6-11, R, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB
- Ethan Jones (Flagler, 2017 Winter Garden): 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 K
- John Jones (North Greenville, 2017 Sanford): 4-8, 2B, R, 2 RBI
- Sergio Lopez (St. Thomas, 2016-17 Sanford): 4-8, 5 R, 2B, 5 RBI, 6 BB
- Elih Marrero (St. Thomas, 2017 Sanford): 4-13, 7 R, 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, SB
- Cody Oerther (Polk State, 2017 Sanford): 4-12, 6 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB
- Randy Oliva (St. Thomas, 2016 Altamonte): 3-11, 3 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB
- Francis Villaman (St. Johns River, 2017 Sanford): 4-10, 2 R, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB
- Riley Wash (St. Johns River, 2017 Altamonte): 4-9, 4 R, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB