DADE CITY, Fla.- The Saint Leo baseball team is looking to get back to their winning ways in 2018 led by new faces both on and off the field.
After a meager 2017 campaign where the Lions finished with a record of 23-26, the team is looking to turn things around this season with a new head coach.
Rick O’Dette is no stranger to winning, amassing nearly 500 wins in his 17 seasons at Saint Joseph’s College of Indiana. A two-time Great Lake’s Valley Conference Coach of the Year, O’Dette led the Pumas to their fourth NCAA Midwest Regional in his final season.
With a pitching staff stocked with right-handed hurlers, the Lions look to lean on veteran pitching at the head of their rotation. Seniors Jordan Pendelton and lone lefty Tyler Bauman add experience to the Lions’ starting pitching that includes sophomore Joey Antonopoulos.
“Our expectations are to get back to the winning ways,” O’Dette said. “We have stressed throughout the fall and early spring the importance of not taking a day off at practice. We feel the guys are buying in and we are extremely excited for the upcoming season.”
The Lions have a number of position players returning with junior Derek Gibree at shortstop, senior Zach Scott at second and Chase Turner at third. Junior Brett Coffel will be behind the plate to catch the Lions’ pitching-heavy roster.
Turner was a Second Team All-Sunshine State Conference selection in 2017 after recording a .323 batting average. The senior from Tampa also bashed in 23 runs and posted 10 extra-base hits, including two homers.
However, O’Dette is not the only new face looking to contribute to the Lions’ success.
“We are excited about our newcomers Peyton Isaacson, Jake Sims, Amir Wright, and Joey Antonopoulos to go along with some of our guys coming off of injury from a year ago. It should be an exciting season for Lions’ baseball,” O’Dette said.
Both Wright and Antonopoulos followed O’Dette from Saint Joseph’s College of Indiana after learning the school would be suspending operations at the end of the 2017 academic year.
Isaacson, a right-handed pitcher and catcher, is a junior transfer from Division 1 powerhouse Coastal Carolina University. Junior Jake Sims from Guelph, Ontario is a transfer from Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tennessee. The crafty Canadian is a versatile threat, capable of playing first base and catcher while also contributing on the mound.
After losing two All-SCC players to graduation a year ago, the Lions’ bats will need to stay hot to complement their loaded pitching staff.
The Lions will host Barry for their home opener March 2nd at 6 p.m.