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UWF Spring Sports Ready For 2017

Bob Barrett

The University of West Florida unveiled their spring sports season at a luncheon for the media on Wednesday.  Players and coaches from the UWF men’s and women’s tennis and golf teams spoke at the event, as well as the baseball and softball programs.

In fact, the softball team was one of the big stories of the 2016 season. The team went from only 19 wins in 2015 to a 42 win season last year. Coach Melissa Paul says the turnaround started right away, during the first weekend. "We went 5 - 1. we were expecting to go about 4 - 2, maybe, just above .500 on the weekend but we came out and the best game we played, the most promising game was the one we lost." Coach Paul credits one of the team's local players, Rachel Wright, who came to UWF from Tate High School for bringing an attitude of fun to the game that Paul says was infectious. "She always had fun whether we were winning or losing. She loved the game, she loved being there and it was contagious." Coach Paul says last year’s success has given this year’s team higher expectations. "We have a great group and we work on that culture and that chemistry."

The softball team will start the season with tournaments the first two weekends in February in Gulf Shores, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia. UWF Athletic Director Dave Scott says last year’s performance, which was the 13 biggest single-season turnaround in Division 2 history, was an impressive accomplishment. "Melissa's done a great job and there's a lot of local talent on that team." 

Softball wasn’t the only success story from last year. The baseball team had an impressive 24 and 7 record in the Gulf South Conference regular season and won their division. Head Coach Mike Jeffcoat says he likes the look of his line up coming into the new season. "It's deep and it's experienced. I equate it to (the one we had during our) 2011 run (to the national championship.)" Jeffcoat says that beyond the starting lineup there's a lot of youth so he has some concerns about the team's depth. "We don't want to have any key, major injuries."

That lineup includes 2016 team home run leader Nic Strasser and first baseman Justin Ambrosino who hit .364 last year. Pensacola native Chase Kiefer will also be back after missing just about all of last year with a thumb injury. There are also seven freshmen on the roster. Coach Jeffcoat says UWF’s record of success helps when it comes to recruiting new talent. "It's helps a lot. It's nice when people have already heard of you. "

The baseball squad opens their season at home against Florida Southern on February 3. All six spring sports programs get underway either the first or second week of February. For schedules go to GoArgos.com

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.