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With 2018 upon us, here are 20 South Florida college sports figures to watch for in the first half of the new year:
NCAA Division I
▪ Logan Allen, a baseball recruit at Florida International University, is freshman left-handed pitcher who can also hit and play first base. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 16th round but turned down pro ball for now.
▪ Jeb Bargfeldt, a senior baseball star for University of Miami, finished second in the ACC last season with a 2.28 ERA, which ranked No. 1 among starters. He held batters to a .198 average, sixth-best in the ACC.
▪ Bruce Brown, a UM sophomore basketball player from Boston, is one of the top talents in the ACC. The 6-5 guard has been projected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
▪ Andrew Cabezas, a UM junior baseball star, is set to be a closer in 2018. Last season, he made 35 appearances, and he led the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 2.14 ERA. His 11.49 strikeouts per nine innings ranked second in the league.
▪ David Dinsmore, a sophomore diver at UM, is the reigning NCAA national champ in platform. He also won an ACC gold medal in the same event.
▪ Briadam Herrera, a Cuba native and a senior at UM, is the reigning ACC Diver of the Year and a five-time All-American. He finished second in the nation last season in the three-meter springboard and has won four gold medals at ACC finals and a bronze at the 2014 World University Games.
▪ Andrea Lazaro, a senior from Spain, was named the 2017 Conference USA Women’s Tennis Player of the Year. The FIU standout was one of 64 players to make the NCAA Tournament last fall but lost her first-round match on May 24 against Florida’s Belinda Woolcock. However, after a strong fall, Lazaro has moved up to No. 3 in the Oracle/ITF college rankings.
▪ Sinead Lohan, a senior from Ireland, leads UM’s tennis team. She reached the semifinals of the NCAA singles championship as a sophomore, the quarterfinals as a freshman and the second round as a junior. She is a two-time All-ACC player as well as a one-time All-American.
▪ Symone Mason, a freshman at UM, is the 2017 USA Track and Field 200-meter sprint champion, finishing second in the event at the Pan American Junior Championships in Peru. She also finished third in the 100 meters in Peru.
▪ Jim Morris, UM’s 67-year-old baseball coach, is retiring after the upcoming season. This will be his 25th season at Miami, where he won College World Series championships in 1999 and 2001. But the 2017 UM team had the program’s 44-year, NCAA-postseason streak snapped, and Morris wants to be able to go out with a long playoff run. “Jim is the godfather of college baseball,” FAU coach John McCormack said.
▪ Estela Perez-Somarriba, a sophomore tennis star from Spain, last season became the first UM tennis player to reach the NCAA singles semifinals as a freshman.
▪ Gabrielle Rains, a sophomore track and field star for FIU, earned a bronze medal in the discus for her native Canada this past summer in the Under-20 Pan American Championships in Peru.
▪ Shannon Saile, a 5-7 FIU sophomore softball star, was the only pitcher in the nation to pitch at least eight shutouts last season. She was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year, finishing fifth in the nation in hits allowed per seven innings. She was named first-team All-Conference USA, leading the league with a 1.51 ERA.
▪ Lonnie Walker IV, a UM freshman basketball player from Pennsylvania, is a 2017 McDonald’s All-American. The 6-5 guard has been projected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
NCAA Division II
▪ Jake Anchia, an Nova Southeastern University baseball star, is a prospect for the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. He’s a 6-1, 210-pound catcher with right-handed power and a strong arm. In 2016, he hit eight homers and led NSU to a Division II national title. He also set the NSU freshman home run record, held previously by current MLB star JD Martinez. Anchia was even better as a sophomore last season, hitting .326 and leading NSU in doubles (15), homers (17) and slugging percentage (.719).
▪ Jim Crutchfield is coaching NSU’s men’s basketball revival. Last season, NSU finished 6-20, and the Sharks made a coaching change, bringing in Crutchfield from Division II West Liberty. In his final eight years at West Liberty, Crutchfield’s team reached the NCAA Elite Eight round of the playoff each time. And, in his first 10 games at NSU, Crutchfield led the Sharks to a 9-1 record and a top-25 national ranking.
▪ David Dennis, a 6-1 junior and a basketball star at NSU, leads the Sunshine State Conference in steals (4.1) and assists (8.3). He ranks third in scoring (21.9). He transferred to NSU this season from West Liberty, joining Crutchfield.
▪ Elvar Fridriksson is a men’s basketball star at Barry University. He ranks second in the Sunshine State Conference in three-point percentage (46.6 percent); third in assists (6.8) and fourth in fourth in scoring (21.3). A 6-0 senior from Iceland, Fridriksson led the nation in assists (8.1) as a sophomore and ranked fifth in assists (7.7) as a junior.
▪ Sonja Larsen, a native of Germany and a Barry senior, is the No. 1 singles tennis player in the nation in Division II. Earlier this year, she became the first Barry player to win the ITA Division II Fall National Championship.Tilda Larsson
▪ Tilda Larsson is only five-foot-three, but she’s a golfing power at Barry. In her initial collegiate season, she earned first-team All-America honors and was named the Sunshine State Conference’s Freshman of the Year. As a sophomore last season, she led Barry to its first-ever women’s golf national championship. She was also named an All-American Scholar with a grade-point average over 3.5. A native of Sweden, Larsson is a leading contender this season to earn National Golfer of the Year honors.