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Date: Nov 27, 2018
A Florida League team had never gone from last place in one season, to league champions in the next.
Until this year.
DeLand Suns head coach Rick Hall guided the DeLand franchise to its second league championship, and has been selected by the league as the 2018 Florida Collegiate Summer League Coach of the Year. It is Hall's second such honor, with the first coming during the Suns' first title season in 2012.
After winning the Florida League championship on Monday night, Hall joins an elite fraternity of coaches with multiple FCSL titles. He becomes just the third coach to win a second championship, joining Stephen Piercefield (2008 Clermont and 2011 Sanford) and Kevin Davidson (2013-14 Winter Park and 2017 Sanford).
Hall led the Suns to a 22-16 regular season record, as well as a 4-1 mark in the playoffs. The 26 total wins tied a franchise record with the 2012 team. The regular season record was good for the number two seed in the FCSL Playoffs, where the Suns went 3-0 at Melching Field, finishing with a 12-1 victory over the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs in Game 3 of the Florida League Championship Series.
The former Stetson pitching coach used his acumen on the mound to guide a DeLand pitching staff that walked the fewest batters in the league, and tied with Leesburg with the lowest team WHIP at 1.41. DeLand's two-headed pitching monster of Jesus Valoy (Miami Dade) and Nick Chiseri (Stetson) combined to go 14-1 during the regular season and postseason, including both victories over Sanford in the FCSL Semifinals and Valoy's win in Game 3 of the Finals.
DeLand was also solid in the field down the stretch, boasting one of the league's best double play combinations in shortstop Kyle Ball (Stetson), second baseman Geordon Blanton (Marshall), and first baseman Joe Burke (Kentucky Wesleyan). Coupled with offensive production from players like Nick DeTringo (Tampa), Scout McFalls (Winthrop), Matthew Mulkey (Winthrop), and Championship Series MVP Brayden Sisson (Kentucky Wesleyan), Hall was able to put together a successful lineup while playing in the league's least hitter-friendly park.
Monday night's championship was especially sweet for Hall, as it came at Melching Field, a field that he manages as the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of DeLand. It marked the first time an FCSL team was able to celebrate on their home field since 2004, the first year of the league.