JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They say the game of baseball is won up the middle. If that is indeed the case, Jacksonville University baseball is going to have a lot of opportunities to win thanks to the strength of its battery alone.
On Monday, we looked at the outstanding depth amongst JU's pitchers, and today the focus will be on the men behind the dish. Four catchers with experience return for the Dolphins this spring.
Mike Cassala enters his third season at JU with yet another role change in focus. After primarily serving as the closer and Sunday catcher his freshman year, an early season injury to Franco Guardascione forced Cassala to assume everyday catching duties last season. He hit .287 in his 44 starts and was named to the ASUN All-Tournament Team for his collective efforts pitching and catching.
His pitching role fluctuated throughout the season, but he figures to get a look as a starter this season, which would limit his opportunities some behind the plate. Luckily, JU has plenty of other proven options.
Guardascione returns for his injury-delayed senior campaign after appearing in just 14 games last season. Two years ago in his first season with the Dolphins, he appeared in 44 games and caught 15 runners stealing.
"Franco is great at receiving and managing a staff," said Assistant Head Coach Rich Wallace. "His throwing has really improved this offseason too."
Entering his sophomore season, Jacob Southern is the most prototypical catcher on the staff. Described as an elite thrower, he has worked on further cleaning up his exchange to take even more advantage of his arm strength. He has also improved his receiving this summer, and possesses the most raw power at the plate amongst the four backstops.
Rounding out the quartet is Reagan Wright, a redshirt junior who set a career high with six starts in sixteen appearances last season. He posted a perfect fielding percentage and had a nine-game reached base streak at one point. Wright's leadership, as well as his jovial nature, is what endears him to most of his teammates.
Coming up Wednesday, a breakdown of the JU infield, which returns all four starters from a year ago.
Jacksonville University baseball opens the season at home with a three-game series vs. West Virginia Feb. 16-18 at John Sessions Stadium. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at JUTickets.com.