The Tallahassee Community College Eagles only return seven players from last season, while they boast 18 newcomers. With so many new players, the team worked all offseason to try to develop chemistry and cohesion between the returning players and new additions.
The Eagles have gotten their 2017 campaign off to a 5-3 start. After starting 5-0, TCC dropped three straight games to South Georgia State College, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Santa Fe College. Their next contest will be at home Feb. 8 at 4 p.m. against Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Head Coach Mike McLeod is remaining hopeful despite the loss of players from the previous season as he enters his 27th season at TCC.
“I’m always optimistic about our chances, it’s gonna be tough,” Coach McLeod said. “We have not displayed the intelligence on the field that I’d like to see. That’s what gets you beat, it’s never lack of talent.”
Coach McLeod says that some opponents seem to be smarter than others, and that he needs more of his own players to develop a higher baseball IQ.
With so little experience across the roster, the Eagles have spent a lot of time working on situational plays to try and sharpen their players mental grasp of the game.
“We probably spent more time on situations than we ever have,” McLeod said. “We’ve proven in the fall, preseason and in intrasquad scrimmages that we don’t throw to the right place. There’s some thinking cap things that we have to learn how to do better and quicker.”
According to Coach McLeod, improving on the mental aspect of the game while utilizing new players for this season is a difficult task.
Despite the lack of returning players, top returning pitcher Brooks Bucker believes team chemistry won’t be an issue.
“It’s already almost like we’re a family. Everyone gets along, we all love each other. We all have each other’s back,” Bucker said. “It just feels like everything’s clicking already with everybody out there on the field.”
The Eagles struggles have typically been in conference play the last few seasons. In 2016, TCC finished 9-11 in conference play, in 2015 they were 6-13 and in 2014 they were 9-11. The last time the Eagles finished with a winning record in conference play was 2013.
Conference play begins for the Eagles on March 7, when they take on the preseason number one team, the Chipola College Indians.
With so many fresh faces, experienced and talented sophomores like Bucker and shortstop Deyvid Silva are taking on leadership roles.
“We’re a more younger team than last year, so I’ve definitely stepped up,” Silva said. “There’s a couple sophomores we got who are in their first year, so I don’t have to teach them that much.”
Silva came on strong as a freshman, leading the Eagles in runs scored and finishing second in hits. According to the younger players on the squad, his experience is invaluable and Silva is making sure to give them as much advice as possible.
“Yeah, I just told them you can’t slack off in the beginning. You have to treat every game like a conference game,” Silva said. “Once you get to conference you have to make sure you win. Last year we struggled a bit finishing it off.”
As for goals, TCC will be looking to get back into the postseason for the first time since 2013. Silva wants that and more.
“The goal is to get to states and get a ring,” Silva said. “We just have to play as one and finish strong through the season.”