As Bryan Lewallyn ended the Sand Sharks' final practice before Saturday's season-opening doubleheader against Fisher, the USC Beaufort baseball coach left his team with this thought: "Win the first game, win the first series. That's the goal."
"At the end of the year, our goal is to win the conference, our goal is to get into a regional, ultimately the goal is to win the World Series," Lewallyn said. "It is tough, but from Day 1, you've got to take it game by game and series by series.
"Focus on the team you're playing and nothing else, and that kind of simplifies things for you."
Lewallyn and the Sand Sharks are hoping to pick up where they left off at the end of last season.
After reaching the NAIA World Series in 2012, USCB graduated 19 seniors and was uneven for a good part of last season before pulling together toward the end of last year and finishing strong, going 10-5 in April, reaching the championship in the Sun Conference tournament and reaching the NAIA Opening Round to finish 27-25.
"It probably took us half the season last year to get a real good feel for where things stood," Lewallyn said. "I don't think that's any different from where we're at now. You've got a pretty good idea but you're never certain until they say play ball and you get a couple innings under your belt."
The Sand Sharks didn't lose 19 seniors this season, but a significant chunk of last year's team is gone.
"It'd be good to pick up where we left off, because we were playing at a high level at the end of the year last year, but truth be told we lost a lot of guys," Lewallyn said. "But the good news is we get about half the guys back from last year's club. If we can pick up from where we were last year, that would be great. Is it realistic? I don't think so."
Among the players the Sand Sharks lost were pitchers Miles Galvin (3.06 ERA in 15 starts), Andrew Barrineau (3.34 ERA, 6-1, 4 saves in 20 appearances) and Kyle McCullough (3.00 ERA, 6-2, 4 saves, 18 appearances), outfielder Ryan Doeppel (.299, 23 RBIs) and catcher Mitch Johnson.
"We've got to replace some guys," Lewallyn said.
To replace those veterans, the Sand Sharks will rely on 14 newcomers -- three freshmen and 11 transfers. In particular, catcher Alex Bonilla (soph., Palm Beach State) and outfielder Matt Kianka (Jr., Iowa Western CC) are expected to see a lot of time early.
"Those are two guys that lead the pack a little bit," Lewallyn said.
But despite the turnover, Lewallyn thinks his team's biggest strength is experience.
"Half the guys are back from last year's team, and a lot of our newcomers have played before," Lewallyn said. "Last year, we were coming into the season with maybe seven guys on the field at any given time who had never played at the college level before.
"This year, everybody in our lineup, whether here or at the junior college level, has experience."
Fisher (0-0) at USC Beaufort (0-0)
Noon & 3 p.m., Richard Gray Sports Complex, Hardeeville
Last season: USCB went 27-25, 13-14 Sun Conference, lost in the NAIA Opening Round.
Top returners: OF Blake Cilwick (Sr., .322, 2 HRs, 44 RBIs, 17 SBs), OF J.J. Crespo (Soph., 20 RBIs, 9 SBs), 1B Erik Armstrong (Sr., .284, 1 HR, 37 RBIs, .994 fielding), P Junior Delatorre (3.71 ERA, 4-3), P Ben Sauls (Sr., 1.46 , 1-0).
1 -- Fisher College (DH), noon; 2 -- Fisher College (DH), noon; 7 -- Webber International, 1 p.m.; 8 -- Webber International (DH), noon; 11 -- Vorhees (DH), noon; 14 -- at Embry-Riddle, TBD; 15 -- at Embry-Riddle (DH), TBD; 18 -- Benedict College (DH), 1 p.m.; 22 -- St. Andrews (DH), 1 p.m.; 25 -- at Edward Waters (DH), 1 p.m.; 28 -- at Georgia Gwinnett, 7 p.m.
1 -- at Georgia Gwinnett (DH), noon; 4 -- at Brewton-Parker (DH), 1 p.m.; 7 -- Florida Memorial (DH), 1 p.m.; 8 -- Florida Memorial, noon; 14 -- Thomas, 3 p.m.; 15 -- Thomas (DH), noon; 18 -- at Vorhees (DH), noon; 21 -- Southeastern, 3 p.m.; 22 -- Southeastern (DH), noon; 25 -- at Brewton-Parker, 1 p.m.; 28 -- at Saint Thomas, TBD; 29 -- at Saint Thomas (DH), TBD.
1 -- Edward Waters (DH), 1 p.m.; 4 -- Northwood (DH), noon; 5 -- Northwood, noon; 8 -- at Benedict (DH), 2 p.m.; 11 -- at Ave Maria, 3:30 p.m.; 12 -- Ave Maria (DH), noon; 16 -- Brewton-Parker (DH), 1 p.m.; 18 -- at Warner, TBD; 19 -- at Warner (DH), TBD.