Baseball team has talent, but tough schedule

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By Nathan Deen

Published on January 30, 2008

The PJC baseball team is looking forward to a competitive season this year as the Pirates should have a perfect blend of talented freshman and experienced sophomores.

Head Coach Bill Hamilton has not yet made an official starting line-up and that is because he has a lot of different options to weigh. Hamilton said he is most likely to go with a line up consisting of his best defensive players, provided those players can contribute offensively.

Hamilton said that he is particularly interested in the shortstop position, in which one of two capable players could end up starting. One of the candidates battling for the starting position is Kevin Vasquez, a freshman from Tallahassee. Vasquez was the player of the year in his high school conference in 2007, although he is struggling to make the transition from high school baseball to college baseball.

“If he would catch on offensively and defensively, he’s potentially our best player,” Hamilton said.

The other candidate is Alex Melendez, a sophomore transfer from Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas who is also one of three Pirates to come from Puerto Rico. He was described by Hamilton as a “premiere shortstop.”

The PJC infield is also looking forward to the addition of freshman second baseman Robert Beary from Apopka.

“What a player he’s going to be,” Hamilton said. “I could see him in the SEC or the ACC in a couple of years.”

The player Hamilton is looking toward the most for leadership is returning pitcher Miguel Mejia, who is coming off an 11-0, undefeated season from last year. Mejia, who has spent the fall season working on a new curveball, feels that he has gotten even better since his perfect season.

“It’s working and so I think it’s going to be way better this year,” Mejia said.

The PJC bullpen has plenty of experience as Mejia will be joined by sophomores Chris Sorce, J.B. Skees, and Daniel Esparaza. The freshmen pitchers who are expected to see a lot of action and possibly start or close are Joey Delgado and R.J. Moye. Hamilton expects to put Esparaza at the closing position, but said that Delgado also has a chance to be the closer.

The bulk of experience comes from PJC’s outfield. A possible lineup could consist of Allen Ward, Ryan Ditthardt, and Robert Bonifay – all returning sophomores who are also very good offensive weapons. If not, then Hamilton has no restraints about placing talented freshmen Bear Comer and Matt Talierico at an outfield position.

“We won’t drop many out there,” Hamilton said.

The Pirates will have to face a difficult schedule en route to qualifying for the FCCAA State Tournament and they must place at least second in the Panhandle conference to do so.

In their non-conference schedule, which lasts from Jan. 25 to March 1, the Pirates will face Central Florida Community College, who finished runner-up in the 2007 state tournament. The Pirates will also play five road games in the span of a week sprawled out over the states of Alabama and Mississippi.

Hamilton said that the Panhandle conference is an open race this year, but defending national champion Chipola will be the toughest challenge.

“We are talented enough,” Hamilton said. “If we play good defense and we pitch to our capabilities and we run the bases and don’t make mistakes on the bases, we’ll wind up okay. We’ll be where we need to be.”