The Rhode Island Rams baseball team will get their 2014 season underway tomorrow when they face off against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Rhody will play a total of four games against FGCU over the weekend, all of them at Swanson Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. In case your wondering, it’s supposed to be sunny, mid-70s, and “beautiful” in southwestern FL this weekend, according to AccuWeather. Sounds like perfect conditions for America’s Pastime.
There are certainly some high hopes for URI this season. Fans, media, polls, and preseason accolades are all predicting another strong outlook for the Rams. But predictions and conjecture only go so far. Let’s have a look at Rhody’s first opponent:
2013 Record: 37-20 (19-8 in the Atlantic Sun)
Key Losses: 2B Brandon Bednar, LF Sean Dwyer, C Mike Reeves
Key Returners: 3B Nick Rivera, OF Michael Suchy, P Michael Murray
If Florida Gulf Coast sounds familiar, it’s probably due to their hoops team making a run to the Sweet 16 last March. But their baseball team is no slouch, either. They had six players taken in last year’s MLB Amateur Draft, but it hasn’t exactly left them shorthanded. They did lose their top four hitters and two of their three top pitchers, but the Eagles have plenty of other guys ready to step in.
Starting pitcher Michael Murray likely slides into the top spot in the rotation this season after an incredibly successful freshman campaign. He posted a 5-1 record and a 2.93 ERA in 13 starts last year, good enough to earn him a unanimous selection to the Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen team. It’ll be Murray vs Tyler Bowditch tomorrow night, and the two young guns will no doubt be fun to watch.
Offensively, FGCU may take a step back, but they’ll be relying on their young stars to make sure that doesn’t happen. Despite losing a good chuck of their lineup, the Eagles are returning their top two home run hitters. Junior Michael Suchy led the way with nine homers a year ago, and he’s also the best returning hitter in terms of average (.317). Much like Murray, third baseman Nick Rivera also enjoyed a unanimous Atlantic Sun All-Freshmen team selection, and he’ll try to build on the eight bombs he hit last season.
Florida Gulf Coast is a tough team, but their fans are probably saying the same about URI. The four-game set begins tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. The two teams will then play a double-header on Saturday, with the first game getting underway at 1:00 p.m. The first pitch for Sunday’s series finale is also at 1:00.