Baseball Preview: Catchers/Infielders
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
Returning for the Seahawks are Drew Farber and Josh Abshire. Farber played in 55 games for the Seahawks, including 53 as a starter in 2012. He finished with one homer and 34 runs batted in while handling a pitching staff that ranked 62nd nationally with a 3.61 ERA. Farber joined Daniel Marsh (1999-00) and Cody Stanley (2010) as Seahawk catchers since 1998 to start 50 or more games behind the plate.
Abshire, who made eight starts in the outfield for UNCW in 2012, started seven games behind the plate as a freshman in 2011. Abshire had a strong fall season, splitting time behind the plate and in the outfield.
Junior infielder Ryan LaGrange also moved behind the plate in the fall and showed a knack for the position. LaGrange is solid defender in the field as well as behind the plate with a strong arm.
Sophomore Justin Manning saw limited time as a freshman for the Seahawks. Manning hit .307 and made the All-Star game for the Southern Collegiate Baseball League over the summer.
Freshman Gavin Stupienski missed most of the fall with a shoulder injury, but showed a strong bat from the left side. He could add depth, depending on his recovery from fall surgery.
UNCW enters the 2013 season looking to replace the left side of the infield following the graduation of Matt Campbell (3B) and Jake Koenig (SS). While losing that left side, the Seahawks do return Michael Bass (2B) and Hunter Ridge (1B) on the right side. Both were second-team All-CAA selections while leading the Seahawks back to the NCAA tournament.
Bass hit a career-high .326 and fueled the Seahawks from the bottom of the order. He scored 33 runs and knocked in 33 runs while stealing 20 bases in 23 attempts, most among returning players on the Seahawks. Defense is where Bass made his biggest impact, fielding at a .982 clip and committing just six errors, lowest among starters in the CAA. His 200 assists led the league and ranked third all-time at UNCW.
Ridge, meanwhile, returns for his senior season poised to become the program's all-time leader in several offensive categories. As a junior, Ridge rebounded from a slow start to finish with a .340 batting average with 16 doubles, four homers and 41RBI. His .434 on base average ranked second on the team thanks in part to a career-high 37 walks.
As a freshman, Corey Dick helped power the Seahawk lineup from the DH slot and earned Freshman All-America honors after hitting .302 with eight home runs and knocking in 35 runs. He continued to swing a hot bat over the summer, batting .311 for Front Royal while playing first base.
On the left side of the infield, freshman Terence Connelly looks to step in at shortstop while third base could be manned by another freshman in Steven Linkous. Along with Matt Keeler and Luis Renvill, LaGrange will also be in the mix on the left side.
Connelly was a three-year starter at Chaminade (N.Y.), helping the Flyers to the 2011 NSCHSAA title and top ranking on Long Island. As a senior, he hit .441 with 16 doubles and stole seven bases. Linkous is a local product who played at North Brunswick and was a three-time 2A All-State selection for the Scorpions. In 2012, he hit .458 and stole an impressive 30 bases.
Keeler, a senior, gives the Seahawks additional depth on the corners and at second base and a lefthanded bat off the bench. Keeler is a solid defender at both infield positions and showed constant improvement at the plate in the fall.
Renvill, a junior, is coming off a solid summer in the Valley League, hitting .252 with 12 extra base hits for Front Royal. He played both second and shortstop over the summer and will be a solid option up the middle.
Freshman Andy Austin is primarily an infielder, but showed athleticism during the fall in the outfield to give the Seahawks another lefthanded option off the bench in both spots.
We'll conclude our preseason look at the Seahawks on Jan. 22, when we head to the outfield.