FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A mainstay in the Top-25 during much of head coach Greg Brown‘s tenure, Nova Southeastern will once again enter the season as one of the prime national title contenders, as the Sharks have been ranked No. 12 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 18 by Perfect Game in their respective preseason polls.
If the Sharks are to live up to the lofty expectations, a lot will have to do with the play of transfers Christian Demby and Dylan Harris, along with star catcher Jake Anchia. Harris, expected to start at second base for Nova Southeastern, recently earned the nod as a Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American in addition to being picked as a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) First Team All-Region selection. Meanwhile, Anchia was named one of NCAA Division II’s top prospects by Perfect Game. Collegiate Baseball also pegged him as a Player to Watch in DII, with Demby tabbed as a Newcomer to Watch.
The preseason No. 1 a year ago, Brown’s club opens 2018 in the middle of the Top-25 after moving on from the bulk of its 2016 national championship roster. With the many new faces, comes uncertainty, yet Nova Southeastern figures to be just fine thanks to the aforementioned trio along with numerous other highly-touted pieces. Devin Conn, a key addition from Middle Tennessee State, will bolster the front end of the starting rotation with the return of 6-foot-5 right-hander Derik Beauprez. Fellow DI transfer Joe Strzeleckiappears to have the closer role locked up, flashing a low-to-mid 90s fastball throughout the preseason. Offensively, Andrew Liberty is back for his redshirt-senior campaign after a career year in 2017 in which he blasted 11 home runs as part of his .345 average. He will be joined in the revamped lineup by Oklahoma State transfer Nick Gallo and Ian Acevedo, who enters his junior season following two strong years at Eastern Florida State College.
Along with Tampa and Florida Southern, Nova Southeastern is one three Sunshine State Conference members to crack the Top-25 in both polls.
Regionally, the Sharks have been picked to finish third by the NCBWA. Defending south region champ Delta State tops the rankings, with Tampa coming in at No. 2. Both West Alabama and Florida Southern round out the Top-5.
New to wearing Navy and Gray, Harris is still a familiar face to Shark fans after four seasons in the SSC as a standout at Saint Leo. Even before the first pitch of 2018, he sits just 83 hits shy of breaking the all-time SSC record, and can basically be penciled in as an All-SSC performer yet again with three such honors already to his name. As a Second Team All-American in 2017, Harris led the SSC with an astounding .448 batting average after tallying 99 hits in just 49 games. He also added four home runs to go along with 33 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
If Anchia’s progression during his first two seasons at NSU is any indication, the college baseball world better watch out. As a freshman, he launched eight homers in only 73 at-bats before mashing a team-high 17 homers and 55 RBI as a sophomore on his way to all-region honors. The NSU backstop put together a strong offseason as well, homering six times this past summer while playing for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League. Now draft eligible as a junior, the Miami Lakes, Fla. native has the chance to replace former seventh round pick, and current St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Miles Mikolas as the highest draftee in program history.
Demby has the potential to be yet another player in a line of special finds by Brown. The former Archbishop McCarthy grad joins the program with the tools to be a two-way guy after spending his first two seasons in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with North Carolina State. On the mound, Demby tossed a combined 25 innings in 13 appearances, while batting .294 at the plate for the Wolfpack.
The Sharks will take field for Opening Day next Thursday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. against Catawba. For complete coverage of the action, follow the Sharks on Twitter @NSU_Baseball or visit the schedule page on NSUSharks.com.