23. WEST FLORIDA ARGOS (35-19)
Final 2012 Ranking: 26
As the defending national champions the Argos had a tough row to hoe in 2012. Not only was there a mass exodus of talent due to graduation and the draft following the season, UWF went into each game with a target on its back as everyone wanted to take down the champ. UWF played decently, finishing in middle of the competitive Gulf South Conference and earned the number four seed in the South Regional. The Argos couldn’t catch fire like they did the previous season however and were dumped early, but not before eliminating top ranked Tampa on their way out. Head Coach Mike Jeffcoat will have a ridiculously deep staff in 2013, but will need a better offensive club if they are to compete at a national level once again.
Most of a staff that posted a solid 3.50 team ERA, returns to Pensacola, buoyed by ace closer Bobby Parker who had a 1.59 ERA and saved 14 games which ranked third in the nation. In 28.1 innings pitched Parker only allow one extra base hit. A trio of starters who will be back including Drew Bryson who led the team with a 2.51 ERA, Josh Tanski who was second in ERA at 3.52 and led the club with 92 innings and Jake Stephens who had a 6-3 record and 3.57 ERA. Kevin Peters missed much of last season due to injury but had a 2.23 ERA in 60.2 innings pitched in 2011 while limited opposing batters to a .214 batting average at the plate. Argo coaches also expect big numbers by pair of incoming transfers. Dayan Rodriguez transferred to UWF via the State College of Florida and threw 91.1 innings, had an 8-2 record and posted a 3.49 ERA for the Manatees. Austin Southall posted a 2.11 ERA and had a 8-3 record while tossing for the Chipola College Indians. Argo coaches believe both Rodriguez and Southall are legitimate Tino Martinez Award candidates.
Dustin Saulman wields the most potent bat back in the lineup. Last season the outfielder hit .311 and stole 20 bases. Fellow outfielder Andrew Rodriguez also swiped a score of bases last season but will need to improve on his .246 batting average for his speed to pay more dividends. The return of catcher Garrett Flynn also provides stability to the day-to-day lineup. A handful of transfers will need to play as anticipated and elevate their game if UWF is to rebound from a season in which the team batting average dropped from .326 to .270. Kaleb Barlow has the inside track at second base after hitting .333 last season at Chipola College. Cliff Covington could be the answer at first base after batting .366 at Alabama Southern CC. A breakout season was anticipated from Max St. Hilaire last season after transferring from St. John’s River State College. Things didn’t pan out on the field for him in 2012, but there is optimism that he’ll regain his stroke in 2013.