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Cougars Baseball Gearing Up for 2014 Season

The Cougars baseball team, coming off a 4th place finish at the NCCAA DII College World Series in 2013, are preparing for opening day on January 28th against Taylor University, which will be a good test right away. The Trojans finished their 2013 season with a 35-14 record, including a Crossroads League regular season title, along with winning the conference tournament, and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament. Taylor received votes in the NAIA Preseason Poll, finishing just shy of a Top 25 National Ranking.

“We will see where we are at early on this season. Opening up with Taylor at home, followed by a weekend series at Northwood University, both being quality programs, will be a good indicator,” said Cougars head coach Josh Rebandt.

The Cougars will face another NAIA Preseason Top 25 nationally ranked opponent, Ave Maria University, their third weekend of the season. The Gyrenes finished 2013 with a 38-21 record and are ranked 25th in the national poll heading into 2014.

Clearwater returns four starting pitchers, including two, Junior RHP Will Kirby (Sickles HS) and Sophomore RHP Stephen Martin (Chamberlain HS), who both earned wins at the NCCAA DII College World Series last May. Kirby led the pitching staff with strikeouts last spring, and picked up three wins. Martin was tied for a team high five wins after a successful freshman season on the mound. Senior LHP Kyle Leja (Countryside HS) returns to the pitching staff for his final season. Leja led the staff in innings pitched during his junior year in 2012, while picking up three wins. Sophomore LHP Brandon Gonzalez (Sarasota HS) is back in the rotation after a season ending injury in 2013, which happened during his fifth start of the season. Gonzalez is slated to start the midweek games for the Cougars.

Senior LHP Kyle Baitz (Wharton HS) will be an anchor out of the bullpen. Baitz set the school record in 2012 for most appearances in a season with twenty-seven. Freshman RHP Colby Retkowski (Gloucester County Christian HS, NJ) is a new addition to the bullpen. The Cougars also have a handful of dual-position players including freshman RHP/IF Tim Reidy (Chiefland HS), transfer RHP/IF Michael Calabrese (Nyack College, NY/United Christian Academy, NJ), freshman RHP/UTL Nathan Stanley (Lake Placid HS), and sophomore RHP/UTL Emmanuel Chmielewski (Clearwater HS). The backstop includes transfer Nick Abbruzzese (Eckerd College/East Lake HS), along with freshman Matt Schaefer (Indian Rocks Christian HS). Abbruzzese and Schaefer are quality additions and will help guide the pitching staff in 2014.

In the infield, the Cougars return senior first baseman Joel Felten (Bible Baptist HS, GA). Felten is looking to continue his seven game hitting streak at the end of last season. Also returning is third baseman NCCAA DII Second Team All-American Jake Reidy (FSCJ/Chiefland HS). New to the infield are freshmen middle infielders Gabriel Gali (Miami Springs Senior HS), Austin Yeoman (Santa Fe HS, CA), along with Tim Reidy. Freshman first baseman Justin Holmes (Hueytown HS, AL) is a new addition at the corner. Calabrese, who also pitches, is also a third baseman for the Cougars. Seniors David Edwards (Northside Christian HS) and Jefte Velez (Providence Christian HS) return in the outfield. Both have been mainstays in the outfield since their freshmen seasons, and both are above .300 career hitters. Freshmen Nathan Stanley (Lake Placid HS) and Trevor Lancaster (La Mirada HS, CA) are newcomers in the outfield, both coming off successful high school campaigns, and are solid additions to a fast outfield group.

Chmielewski, who will be looked to for innings on the mound, is also a utility player who should see time in the infield and outfield. “We are excited about what is ahead of us, but need to take it a game at a time. Our young middle infield and bullpen are surrounded by experience, which will help the young guys adjust quickly,” said Coach Rebandt about the upcoming season.

The Cougars open up at home on Tuesday, January 28th at 7:00pm against Taylor University at Jack Russell Stadium. Stay tuned to the website for game recaps throughout the season, and also our Facebook Fan Page and @cCc_athletics Twitter account for updates.