FORT MYERS, Fla.- The Florida SouthWestern State Baseball team was one day away from reaching the midpoint of their 2020 season when it was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the shortened campaign, the Bucs put together plenty of highlight worthy moments, ultimately finishing the year at 16-11.
The Bucs opened the season ranked #20 by the NJCAA after winning 40 games and their first Suncoast Conference Championship in 2019.
They kicked off their year January 28th at the Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves, CoolToday Park in North Port, where they took on conference rival State College of Florida in a non-league contest. The Manatees got the best of the Bucs on that night, but FSW rebounded by winning two of three in their opening weekend tournament at City of Palms Park to even up their record at 2-2.
Next was the first of five early season dates with Miami Dade, which went the way of the Sharks 7-0.
After blowing a ninth inning lead one day later at home against Broward, the 2020 Bucs earned their nickname as the Cardiac Kids as Noah Heisler walked off the Seahawks with a tenth inning single to give FSW a 6-5 win. Two days later it was dejavu, this time against the nation's #3 ranked team in Walters State as Heisler again strolled to the plate in a 5-5 game in extra innings and laced another walk off RBI single to give the Bucs a 6-5 win for the second straight game. The Bucs finished off a two game sweep of the Senators a day later with an 8-4 victory in the Panhandle. Later the same day, the Bucs took on perennial national power San Jacinto in the backend of a split doubleheader. It looked like the Bucs' luck had run out as they trailed the Gators 7-4 in the ninth inning, but the Cardiac Kids did it again, scoring three times in the inning to send the contest to extra innings before Tommy Joseph pitched a scoreless top half of the tenth and gave himself the win with a walk off single in the bottom of the inning, his fifth hit of the ballgame to give FSW an 8-7 victory for their fourth straight win.
The Bucs lost two out of their next three, both against top 10 ranked foes, but rebounded with wins over Gulf Coast and St. John's River to go to 9-5 on the campaign. They dropped another tough contest to Miami Dade, but pounded ASA Miami at home to earn their tenth win. In late February the Bucs had a fun exhibition game on the docket as they took on Korea's version of the New York Yankees, going to head to head against the KBL's Kia Tigers dotted with former Major League Stars and managed by five time All-Star Matt Williams. Two days later, four FSW pitchers etched their names in the record book, combining on a perfect game in a 9-0 win over Elev8 Academy. The Bucs closed out non-conference action with a back and forth three game set against Miami Dade, dropping the first two games before picking up the finale to check into league action at 13-8.
FSW opened defense of their Suncoast Conference title against the team they clinched it against last season, the Polk State Eagles. The Bucs earned a 9-5 game one victory in the series, but the Eagles rebounded with a 4-3 win in game two to set up a Friday matinee rubber game at City of Palms Park. FSW righthander Enrique Cotto threw a gem for the Bucs, going the distance and allowing just four hits and one run while striking out 12 as the Bucs won 2-1 to clinch the series.
Next up was a three game set against Hillsborough, starting on the road in Tampa. In game one, the Bucs came back from 3-2 down in the sixth inning to win 15-5, putting up 13 runs in the final four frames to open the series with a victory. Unfortunately, the momentum didn't carry over to the next two games of the series as the Bucs' offense went quiet, dropping 8-4 and 6-1 contests to lose the series 2-1.
The Bucs never got a chance to get back on the right track as the FCSAA suspended play on day later and the NJCAA canceled the remainder of the season a short time later to bring their 2020 campaign to a close at 16-11 and 3-3 in league play.
A number of Bucs were off to solid starts to their seasons before the stoppage. Joseph was well on his way to an All-State sophomore season, leading the team with a .385 average, three home runs, and 25 RBIs. Freshman Matthew Corpas was right on his heels, hitting .370 with 21 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 10 attempts when the season was called. On the mound the Bucs posted a 3.65 ERA as a team in 27 contests. Grant Besser had a team best three wins on the year while also leading FSW starters with a 3.00 ERA and 36 strikeouts. Ronny Medina was the Bucs top weapon out of the bullpen early on, notching a 2.08 ERA and 11.42 strikeouts per inning to start the season.
As of April 10th, four FSW sophomores have signed NCAA Division I scholarships with Marc Davis heading to Pittsburgh to join former Bucs teammate Mitch Myers with the Panthers, Joseph and Mason Adams are headed to Jacksonville, and Connor Bagnieski is on his way to Radford while Warnner Rincones has signed to play for Division II power Eckerd in 2021.
All NJCAA spring sport athletes were given their year of eligibility back due to the cancellation of the season meaning that the aforementioned sophomores could return to FSW for another season and all freshmen on the 2020 roster would again be considered freshman in 2021.