Baseball / 2019 SFCBL Preview

2019 SFCBL Preview

Date:  Source: South Florida Collegiate Baseball League

The 2019 South Florida Collegiate Baseball League opening night is right around the corner as teams will kick-off Friday night under the lights at multiple venues around South Florida.  Below are the previews of our teams submitted by GM’s and team staff members.

In alphabetical order:

Boca Raton Blazers

Coming off a tough 2018 season the Blazers have re-vamped the entire roster and are looking to make a playoff run in the 2019 season. Playing all home games on the beautiful campus of Lynn University in Boca Raton, the Blazers have their star short-stop returning for the 2019 season. David Vasquez (NC State) will anchor down the infield as he was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017 and did not sign. NC State will look to be a regional contender this season and David is not expected to report to Boca until the 2nd or 3rd week in June due to playing in the College World Series.

A slew of incoming pitchers will look to carry the Blazers into the post season this year featuring Chris Ruckdeschel (Florida State), Blake Hely (Davidson), Will Ohme (University of North Florida), Anthony DiFede (Nova Southeastern), Victor Alderrama (Rutgers) and Adam Tulloch (Wingate). Key incoming position players include catcher Richard Grund (Fordham University), infielder Sam Faith (Missouri State), 1B Nick Collins (Polk State) and utility player Jordan Varela (North Carolina Central).

Lynn University Head Assistant Coach Chris Piperno will serve as Head Coach for as he signed a 3-year extension in the off-season and former University of Miami right-handed pitcher Frank Grandinette will serve as the teams Pitching Coach.

Boynton Beach Buccaneers

Coming off a 2018 playoff run in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League, the Buccaneers look to bounce back with a very talented roster for the 2019 season. 2017 staff ace and SFCBL All-Star RHP Kody Gardere (Bluefield College) will return for the 2019 season. Other key returners on the mound include RHP Michael Materetsky (Stetson University) and LHP Ches Goodman (The Citadel).

On the MLB Draft side of things, the Buccaneers expect Sam Peralta (University of Tampa) to be taken on day 2 or 3 of the draft. The 6’4 lefty features a fastball up to 95 MPH and a hard slider in the low 80’s.

Several key additions to the pitching staff include RHP Chris Seymour (Florida Gulf Coast), RHP Nic Daniels (Palm Beach State), RHP Branden Posky (Muskegon C.C.) and RHP Kyle Kramer (Rollins).

Offensively, 2018 SFCBL Rookie of the Year AJ Orrico (Florida State at Jacksonville) will lead the offense. Orrico had one of the best seasons in all of junior college this year hitting .417 in 122 plate appearances. 1B Kevin Bryant (Albany State) and Dalton Cobb (Auburn Montgomery) will be key additions to the lineup as they bring experience and power to the Buccaneers. Bryant is currently hitting .346 with 10 HR’s and Cobb is hitting .353 with 11 HR’s. Between both Bryant and Cobb they have combined for a total of 56 extra base hits this spring.

The Buccaneers play all their home games at Harry Gribbon Field and will be managed by Larry Greenstein, Nick Franco and Kevin Lee.

Delray Beach Lightning

The Delray Beach Lightning have made it to the SFCBL Championship 2 out of the last 4 years but have failed to bring home the hardware. In 2017, the Lightning were ranked #17 in the national summer collegiate baseball poll.

Led by former Marlins infielder Beau McMillan the Lightning have a very strong roster this year including players from power conferences and Sunshine State Conference programs. RHP Brandon Jenkins (Seattle University) will look to be the ace of the staff as he has experience as a weekend starter at the Division I level. Jenkins features a low to mid 90’s fastball up to 97 MPH and a knee buckling slider. Jenkins is expected to be taken in this year’s MLB draft but is expected to pitch through the season until the signing deadline July 15th. Newcomer and catcher Jeff Manto (Villanova) is expected to be a key part of the Lightning lineup. Hard throwing RHP/MIF Vincent Bianchi (St. John’s University) is expected to be taken in the 2019 MLB draft and will be a key incomer for the Lightning featuring a fastball into the mid 90’s. Two other key incoming pitchers who are expected to contribute significantly are Rudy Gomez (Saint Leo) and Trevor Sanchez (Saint Leo). Both pitchers feature fastballs in the low to mid 90’s and have had much success this spring in the Sunshine State Conference.

Other key returners from the 2018 roster include LHP Kyle Khachadourian (Pasco Hernando State), RHP Max Charnin (Palm Beach State), catcher Aaron Steinhart (Stetson University), Jake Buxbaum (Lynn University), Brandon Stone (Daytona State), LHP Scarlen Perez (Eastern Florida State) and team captain John Magnuson (Upper Iowa University).

The Lightning play all their home games at Little Fenway in Delray Beach which is a replica of Fenway Park built by former NY Yankees World Series MVP Bucky Dent.

Florida Pokers

The Summer of 2019 will mark the Florida Pokers 6th season as part of the South Florida Collegiate League. However, this summer brings a new field general as owner Ryan Combs will take on more ownership responsibilities and former NY Yankee and Toronto Blue Jay pitcher, Marty Janzen, will bring his vast coaching experience in summer baseball to South Florida.

The team will consist of several new additions as well as several highly talented returning players who have been with the organization throughout both their high school and college careers.

The Pokers have a history of rostering many players who originated from the South Florida area and this summer is no different. The following players return to the area to play the summer college baseball: Nik Constantakos (University of Tampa), Jestin Jones (Frontier CC),JT Larson (Florida Southern), Daniel Nichols (Pasco Hernando), Cole Standifer (Southern Wesleyan), Gabriel Salgado (St. Leo), JM Fay (FL State College at Jacksonville), Rey Gonce (South Carolina-Beaufort), Nicholas Martinez (Nichols State), Isaiah Perry (Santa Fe College), Jimmy Heyworth (Westcliff University), Anthony Laney (Davis Elkins), Brandon Smith (Savannah State), Jason Thomas (Hillsborough State College) Justin Lara (Faulkner University), Gabriel Lozada (Miami-Dade) and Matt Glenn (Rollins).

Several players will be new to the area and are excited to call South Florida their home for the 2019 summer collegiate season: Dillon Bland (Florida Gulf Coast), Anthony Kane (Cazenovia College), Matt Majer (Rock Valley), Dane Minnick (Rock Valley), Ronald McGhee (Tuskegee), Justin Smith (Hofstra), Julian Gomez (Broward), Alex McCormack (Grand Valley State), Brandon Watkins (Coppin State) and Ryan Zimmerman (Copiah-Lincoln CC).

Although they had both the MVP and Cy Young award winners, in the summer of 2018, the Pokers look forward to returning to the playoffs this summer. To catch this talented Pokers squad this summer, make sure to come out to Northeast H.S. in Ft. Lauderdale.

Ft. Lauderdale Knights

With new ownership and a new name, The Knights are entering their inaugural season in 2019, as they have taken the place of the Royals in Ft. Lauderdale, calling Northeast High School their home. In their first season, the Knights are looking to make an impact in the league and do this by making a big splash in signing quality players from all collegiate levels. The Knights have taken the approach, that it’s not necessarily how big of a school you come from, but the body of work put in at the school you are at.

Starting with the Outfield, the Knights believe they might have the most talented crop of Outfielders in the league for the 2019 season. Starting with experience, the Knights signed league veteran Max Pinto (Samford University). Another big splash made in the Outfield and new to the league this year is Division II standout from Ashland University, Michael Rogers. Through the regular season, in 135 At-Bats this season, Rogers hit .311 with 10 HRs and 9 2Bs during regular season play and was named First Team All-Conference. The Outfield will be rounded out with Logan O’Neil (High Point University), Shawn Rigsby (University of Wisconsin-Parkside), and Cole Luedeking (Rock Valley CC).

In the infield, The Knights have signed some guys who don’t come from the biggest of programs but have put up some big-time numbers this spring. Overlooked by every ivy league school coming out of high school, Caleb Durbin (Washington University, St. Louis) came into his freshman year with something to prove, and he did it loudly. Durbin finished his regular season leading the conference in hitting with a .413 average in 143 At-Bats with 19 extra base hits, 18 stolen bases, and only 5 strikeouts. Durbin also finished the season with a .960 Fielding Percentage. Durbin took home big awards as he was named Conference Rookie of the Year and First Team All-Conference. Tegan Woods (Rock Valley CC) is also expected to make a major impact on the infield this summer, as he finished up the spring regular season hitting .331 with 15 extra base hits and 15 stolen bases. Also contributing to the success of the infield will be Tim Jean (College of Lake County), Brandon Auerbach (South Alabama), Brenden Alsup (St. Ambrose University), Jason Gonzalez (Highland CC), Jacob Singer (Emory University) and Steven Jimenez (Fisher College).

Behind the plate, the Knights look to make an impact with a stable of 3 quality catchers from 3 different levels of collegiate baseball. As a sophomore, Logan Stoldt started 46 games for DII powerhouse Ashland University, where he hit .285 with 5 HRs and also threw out 50% of would be base stealers. Stoldt was name All-Conference Honorable Mention to cap off his regular season. Stoldt will be complimented behind the plate with Devin Roche (Fairleigh Dickinson University) and Gabriel Trastoy (Loyola University-New Orleans).

Rounding things out for the Knights this summer will be a pitching staff with a lot of expectation. The Knights staff is expected to be led by UNC-Greensboro transfer Israel Cordero and College of Central Florida sophomore, Miguel Alba. Alba finished the regular season with a 3-0 record and 4.26 ERA in 25 IP. Also expected to make key impacts on the Knights staff this summer are bother Morgan (Florida A&M) and Alec Mendez (Bethune-Cookman). Morgan boasts a 2.97 ERA and 4-1 record this season for Florida A&M in 25 relief appearances. The Knights will also expect to see a lot of contributions from Jack Schmidt (Dartmouth), Sam Wurth (Lehigh), Jarred Perry (Keiser), Kyle Waller (College of Lake County), Michael McBriar (College of Lake County), Aaron Cooper (Prince George CC), Jake Solomon (Hartford), Jonathan Menendez (St. Thomas), Chris Brucks (St. Petersburg), Nick Vigilante (Bethune Cookman), Dylan Arnett (Highland CC) and Jordan Briones (FSCJ).

The Field Manager for the Knights this summer will be Owner/General Manager, Jesse Katz. Finishing his second year as an assistant coach at Keiser University (NAIA, West Palm Beach), he is in his first year as an Owner and Field Manager for the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League. Katz will be assisted by Connor Barleben, who will be finishing up his first year as an assistant coach at Ashland University (NCAA DII, Ohio).

Palm Beach Diamond Ducks

The Palm Beach DiamondDucks return for their second SFCBL season after a successful inaugural campaign. Last season, the Ducks finished with a league-high 27 wins, sent 14 players to the All-Star Game and made it to the league championship series. They led the league in several categories, including runs, RBIs, batting average and ERA. The Ducks will return under new management, and they will field a team full of entirely new players.

The DiamondDucks ownership has changed. Melissa Presto purchased the Ducks during the offseason and will seek to continue the Ducks’ success from their first season.

Each member of the DiamondDucks coaching staff has ties to northern Palm Beach County. Palm Beach Gardens High School baseball coach Joe Russo will manage the team. Former MLB pitcher and University of Miami Hall of Famer Joe Grahe will be the pitching coach. Indian River State College assistant coach Tino Gaudino will join the Ducks coaching staff as well.

On the mound, the Ducks will have a variety of talent including Orlando Rodriguez (St. Thomas University). This spring, Rodriguez has compiled a 9-2 record with an impressive 2.79 ERA, and he will compete in the 2019 NAIA World Series. Another duo of pitchers out of Rowan College will join the Ducks with 2019 postseason experience. Matt Stil has thrown 42 strikeouts in 22.1 innings, while teammate Joe Marino has a 4-0 record with one save. Rowan is the top seed in the NJCAA DIII World Series. NY Yankees 2017 28th round selection Shane Roberts (Palm Beach State) and University of Miami transfer Ryan Wimbush (Palm Beach State) will also add depth to the mound.

There will be many talented position players in the field for the Ducks, including infielder Jordan Mercado (St. Cloud Tech CC). Mercado has hit .404 this spring and has stolen 17 bases without being caught stealing. Austin Pollak (University of Miami) is also expected to be an impact player this summer as well. The DiamondDucks will be represented by a mixture of local and distant talent. Twenty-two players are from the South Florida metropolitan area, and 12 of them are from Palm Beach County. Along with their local talent, the DiamondDucks will be represented by players from 10 different states, Cuba and the Bahamas. Appropriately enough for their sophomore season, the DiamondDucks will have 27 sophomores on the team.

The DiamondDucks will play their home games at Lilac Park in Palm Beach Gardens.

Phipps Park Barracudas

After a disappointing 2018 season the Phipps Park ownership group decided to take action. They wanted to change the environment for their players as well as the overall league perception of the program. The first step in this process was to hire a new General Manager who could move the team in the right direction.

There was a GM with experience in the league that they had in mind, Ryan Lamb. He had already developed other teams in the league and still expressed a hunger to turn around another organization. “The first step to getting good players is to get good coaches,” the new GM would say in our interview. For the first time the team would hire a current college coach, Justin Sizemore, from Palm Beach Atlantic to lead them.

Sizemore played his college ball at PBA as a catcher and has been on their coaching staff for the past five years as an assistant. Lamb had this to say about his new coach, “Coach Sizemore is going to be a great young leader for our team as he is hungry for the opportunity to have a head job. We felt like this would make for a perfect fit for the direction our team is moving in.” Sizemore was chosen from a list of qualified coaching candidates and will look to make a name for himself and the Barracudas this season.

As for the team you won’t see any familiar faces on the roster. It was made clear from the top that this year was going to be a fresh start from top to bottom. The Barracudas will look to good defense and timely hitting behind solid pitching for wins this year. “We have a young team on paper but that’s how you build a program, you start from nothing and establish the culture,” Head Coach Sizemore said.

The Barracudas will look to freshman infielders Kevin Vittoria and Chris Schoeller from Embry Riddle University to find chemistry together. Jiovel Lantigua is on the MLB draft radar as a young incoming freshman at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Another name on the Barracudas to keep an eye out for is Carsen Negrete. Negrete is a California native who signed with Gonzaga out of high school and has since transferred to powerhouse Saddlebrook junior college in California.

On the mound the team will lean heavily on Nick O’Dea, a hard throwing righty who comes with teammates from Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Kade Kozak is the lone lefty on the staff and he comes with fellow teammate Marcos Feria from Davis and Elkins College. The Barracudas will look to two-way player Dylan Flint from Norfolk State University to anchor the backend of the staff. Flint plays outfield and closes for his team at Norfolk and will look to do the same here in South Florida.

For more information on the team visit www.southfloridacollegiateleague.com and be sure to come out and see the Barracudas this summer.

Pompano Beach Clippers

During the offseason, the Clippers changed ownership and a much needed clean sweep of the entire organization has been performed. Coaches Willie Vizoso, Roberto Martin and Nick Rodriguez will look to continue the winning tradition of the most successful team in SFCBL history.

The Clippers will be led by staff ace Brandon Kaminer (Louisiana State University) who has put up video game numbers this spring with an 8-2 record and 60 K’s in 55 innings with a miniscule 7 walks. Kaminer has been getting plenty of Major League attention and has the potential to be drafted in June. Other key staff members include LHP Sam Boies (Yale University), RHP Brett Aker (Arizona Christian), LHP Caleb Williams (High Point University) and RHP Matt Lepoint (Army West Point).

The Clippers will look to 1B John McKenna (Army West Point), OF Tom Ruscitti (Fairleigh Dickinson) and infielder Manny Garcia (Indiana State) to lead the offense. Ruscitti is currently leading his team in home runs with 11.

Overall the Clippers will put a competitive roster on the field and look to continue their winning tradition.

West Boca Snappers

The West Boca Snappers are the reigning SFCBL Champions after a stellar 2018 season. Last year they finished with a 28-15 record and were third overall in the regular season. This year’s team looks to be in a prime position to repeat as league champions in 2019 as they have 11 returning players from a year ago. “It says a lot about our program and the nature of the players we recruit to have that many guys want to come back,” says GM Ryan Lamb. The Snappers will turn to a new skipper this year in Ryley Maceachern, who formerly a pitched at Stony Brook University and with the Miami Marlins. Maceachern made his way into the league last summer as a pitching specialist for the Boca Blazers and is eager to get his first head coaching job. The Snappers manager had this to say about his team, “Well you really can’t ask for a better situation to walk into in my opinion. We have a solid roster from top to bottom with the ability to pitch, hit and play defense at a high level. To say I am excited may be an understatement!” The Snappers however are quite excited to announce their final roster for the 2019 summer season.

They will once again boast a very strong infield this year that includes 2018 All-Stars Derek Cartaya (Florida International University) and Francisco Urbaez (Florida Atlantic University). Both of whom have put together extremely impressive seasons this spring at their respective schools. Cartaya batted at the top of his lineup everyday finishing the year hitting .316 with 20 stolen bases. While Urbaez sat in the three-hole for most of the year and is currently hitting .325 with 37 RBI, 10 doubles and 10 home runs. Last season for the Snappers Urbaez was ranked 3rd in the league in batting average, hitting .397 on the year. Having this strong veteran talent and leadership at the plate is going to be integral to ensuring the new players coming in can play up to their full potential. One new face to keep an eye on in the infield is Brandon Dorsey (Wallace Dothan Community College). He will look to have an immediate impact on the middle of the Snappers order and make his name known around the league. Dorsey hit .366 with 7 home runs and 37 RBI in 55 games this year at Wallace. “We are very excited to have Brandon with us this summer as he’s an everyday middle of the order bat who can play either corner on the infield,” says Lamb.

The Snappers also have a stacked pitching staff this season as they bring back some great arms from 2018. LHP Erick Vargas (Keiser University) and LHP Gavin Gillespie (Broward College) are among the returning members who both had a great season last summer. Gillespie had 4 wins on the season and was ranked 3rd in the league in strikeouts (51) and 5th in ERA (3.07). Vargas is an MLB draft prospect who pitches at 91-93/95 MPH with a plus change up. He had 29 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.38 last season for the Snappers. A trio of 2018 SFCBL All-Stars from other teams will also be joining the team in 2019. Led by Gabriel Sevillano (Florida State College at Jacksonville) a LHP who previously played for the Palm Beach Diamond Ducks. Along with Sevillano comes LHP Emanuel Fernandez (Santa Fe College) and RHP Justin Ricard (Florida International University) who both played with the Ft. Lauderdale Royals in the 2018 season. Head Coach Ryley Maceachern had this to say about the Snappers pitching staff,” When you look at our bats it’s impressive but as a former pitcher I am really excited to see our arms go out and compete this summer!” With excitement comes expectations and Maceachern is embracing that motivation to be back to back champs with a continued focus on developing the young players on the roster.

The 2019 Snappers have a great mix of veteran talent with some fresh faces that are hungry to prove themselves in the South Florida Collegiate League. One thing that is for sure is it’s definitely going to be an exciting team to watch. You can view the entire 2019 roster by clicking here.