COLLEGES NOTEBOOK

Swoope, Fernandez spark Nova Southeastern baseball to its highest ranking

 

Special to the Miami Herald

A transfer from the University of Miami with a legendary name and a transfer from Florida State with a name that belongs in a Nike commercial are two of the key reasons Nova Southeastern’s baseball team has attained the highest ranking in school history.

The Sharks, 14-2 entering Friday, are ranked tied for fourth in the nation in NCAA Division II.

Their shortstop is redshirt freshman Alvin Swoope, whose last name conjures images of the Nike swoosh. The defensive whiz has just two errors after 16 games.

“He has instincts and athleticism we haven’t had here before,” Nova coach Greg Brown said. “His defense is game-changing because he wants the ball hit to him, and, when he’s back there, our pitchers are not afraid to pitch to contact.”

Swoope, who is 5-7 or “5-8 on a good day,” sustained a back injury last year and took a medical redshirt. He transferred to Nova so he could get more playing time, and he’s hitting .375 with a .485 on-base percentage.

“Some people have that stereotype that shortstops have to be tall and lanky,” Swoope said. “I’m trying to prove people wrong.”

Nova’s first baseman is Alex Fernandez, son of the former Miami pitcher of the same name who recently made the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fernandez is a 5-9 junior whose best position is second base. But when first baseman Brandon Sedell, who had been Nova’s clean-up hitter last year, broke his hand during this season’s opening practice, Fernandez was shifted to his position.

“Alex is a tenacious competitor, just like his father,” said Brown, who added that Sedell is out for the year. “If [Sedell] hadn’t gotten hurt, Alex would have found his way in the lineup in some capacity — second base, left field, third base or designated hitter.”

Fernandez, who is hitting .327, isn’t the dominant pitcher his dad was, but he does pretty well on the mound. He didn’t start pitching until his senior year of high school, when he became Archbishop McCarthy’s second starter and helped the Mustangs extend their streak of state titles.

He barely got a chance to play at UM — he had an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings as a pitcher and no at-bats as a hitter last season — but he’s getting opportunities at Nova.

In his first two Nova pitching assignments, both in relief, he has a combined total of 7 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit, three runs, none earned, three walks and four strikeouts.

Fernandez picked up a three-inning save Saturday against Florida Tech, which came in ranked No. 5 in the nation.

“He throws 84 to 86 [mph], topping out at 88, and has a hammer of a breaking ball,” Brown said.

Fernandez’s father said he was proud when his son originally signed with UM.

“But it didn’t work out,” he said. “He never got the opportunity to play. You have to be able to show your talent.”

Fernandez said he loves that is son is at Nova, just 10 minutes from his home.

“I don’t miss any of his games,” Fernandez said. “And he made some great relationships [at UM]. Six of his ex-teammates at Miami came to one of his [recent] games.”

Besides Swoope and Fernandez, there is one other transfer of special note at Nova. He’s ace pitcher Dillon Frye, who recently returned from a forearm injury and beat Florida Tech last weekend.

“He has the best stuff on our staff,” Brown said of Frye, a 6-3 junior right-hander who transferred from North Carolina State. “He throws his fastball from 90 to 94 [mph], and he has a power slider.”

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