Miami Dade College went to the Junior College World Series in 2014, finishing second in the nation.
St. Thomas University went to the NAIA World Series in 2015, also finishing second.
Will another South Florida school make it to a championship game again this year?
Maybe it will be Nova Southeastern.
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The Sharks, who are off to an 0-3 start, are coming off the first Sunshine State Conference title in program history, and Collegiate Baseball magazine had them ranked 17th in the nation among Division II schools in the preseason.
“I feel like we are a program on the rise for that type of run,” said Greg Brown, who is in his sixth year as Nova’s coach. “I hope we get over the hump and bring home a championship.
“Getting out of our region is difficult. But if we can do that, we would have a great shot at winning the World Series [in Cary, North Carolina].”
Indeed, a Florida school has won seven of the past 11 Division II titles, including defending champion Tampa, which has earned two titles in the past three years.
Besides Tampa, two other Sunshine State Conference teams have won national titles since 2005: Lynn and Florida Southern.
Nova Southeastern ranked second in the conference in the preseason behind Tampa, which is also No. 1 in the national poll. Florida Tech ranked seventh nationally and third in the league.
The Sharks return senior ace Alex Mateo and senior closer Devin Raftery. Mateo (10-1, 3.83 ERA) led the team in wins last season. Raftery (3-0, 1.30 ERA) led the team with six saves.
Brown said this is a deeper staff than last year, when the Sharks set an NCAA-era school record with 39 wins. That depth includes the return of senior Julian Loret de Mola, a former Florida Atlantic pitcher who went 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA for Nova in 2014 before missing last season because of a hip injury.
Offensively, the Sharks’ top two draft prospects are junior catcher Michael Hernandez, a third-year Nova starter, and junior third baseman Danny Zardon, who transferred after starting 27 games at LSU last season, batting .288.
Shortstop JanCarlos Cintron-Torres, a junior transfer from Palm Beach State, was the Defensive Player of the Year among Florida junior colleges last season.
Cintron-Torres has a slight edge over junior switch-hitter Dylan Woods, the incumbent shortstop who could move to second base to get both players in the lineup. Switch-hitting junior Andres Visbal returns as the starter at first base to complete the infield.
The outfield features two former FIU players at the corner positions — lefty-hitting senior Antonio Rodriguez in left and junior Brandon Gomez in right. Gomez started 38 games for FIU in 2014, hitting .320.
Junior Kevin Suarez, a former Miami Columbus High standout and a transfer from Wabash Valley (Illinois) College, is the center fielder.
Suarez, whose brother Andrew was a star pitcher for the University of Miami before signing to go pro last year, stole 56 bases in 58 attempts and had a .356 batting average and a .437 on-base percentage in two years at Wabash.
Junior Sebastian Diaz, who started eight games in two years for UM and hit .364 last season, is a prime candidate for the designated hitter spot.
If it plays out that way, it would give the Sharks tremendous experience, with all juniors and seniors in the starting lineup.
Brown said Jake Anchia, a freshman catcher from Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy, is perhaps the best of the team’s younger players. He hit .420 with 10 homers and was a first-team All-County player last season.
Overall, the Sharks appear to be loaded, justifying their preseason national ranking.
“I think it’s great to be recognized,” Brown said of the polls. “But the only poll that matters is the one in the end [after the World Series]. That’s when we want to be on top, and that’s how we’ve trained our guys to think.”