“We lost two-thirds of our team from last season and two-thirds of this year’s team is new players,” Forehand said. “They know what we lost, but they don’t know the type of players that we signed.”
In the losses column the Bisons, who finished second in the A-Sun last season with a 17-13 record and battled Jacksonville in the tournament championship game, are missing starting pitchers Rex Brothers and Brandon McClurg, outfielder Allen Bolden, shortstop Branden Cadavid and first baseman Justin Sanders.
Brothers was a first round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies in June.
“We had some key losses,” Forehand said. “Until the new guys are tested it is going to be difficult to see how our team is going to perform. So when you sit back and analyze it the coaches were pretty accurate.”
Forehand agreed that Florida Gulf Coast is the best team in the conference and that Jacksonville is No. 2. He is quick to point out; however, that he thinks the third through 11th place teams could all be up to the task of competing for the regular season title.
“Florida Gulf Coast is the clear cut No. 1 team,” Forehand said. “The biggest concern for every team is to make the conference tournament and win it to qualify for an NCAA regional.”
The Bisons practiced on Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium Monday and Tuesday, their first two days outside due to the snowy weather. Teams could officially start practicing Friday.
Forehand thinks this preseason poll will be a major motivational tool for his players.
“Florida Gulf Coast is flattered to be No. 1, but the No. 2 through No. 11 teams are going to do what they can to prove that they should be higher in the rankings.
“I want our players to realize that we have some work to do. We want to be higher in the poll at the end of the year than the one at the beginning of the year.”
Forehand was happy that fifth-year senior Josh Smith was named to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference Team as one of the three starting pitchers.
Smith was 32nd in NCAA Division I in strikeouts with 101 and 29th in hits allowed per inning with 7.1. He was 7-4 with a 3.86 earned run average.
“Josh should be flattered that he has been selected,” Forehand said. “Now he has to continue to prove that he is one of the top pitchers in the conference.
“He is going to be going against the No. 1 pitcher from the opposing team every weekend. It is going to be tougher for him. He should give us 15 or 16 solid games. “
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations