2010 Anteater Baseball Preview: Batters

The Anteater batting lineup will boast a deep, veteran lineup with many returning hitters, along with some unique additions.

The most interesting of these additions is third baseman Brian Hernandez. Due to a problem involving his transfer from junior college last season he was unable to play and thus redshirted for his first year at UC Irvine.

While not the fastest player on the field, Hernandez can hit extremely well and we can expect 20-30 doubles from him this season. Look for him to hit in the third, fourth or fifth spot.

A few seniors to watch out for in particular are starting catcher Francis Larson, starting first baseman and second baseman Jeff Cusick and Casey Stevenson, and outfielders Cory Olson and Dillon Bell.

In addition to the high level of skill these players bring to the field, they provide a sense of veteran leadership that is invaluable for the development of younger players.

“We have certain guys who are the obvious step-up leaders … it makes sense that they will continue to get better,” Coach Mike Gillespie said.

One of these leaders in particular is Larson. As last season progressed he continued to improve, and nothing less is expected from him this year. In addition to leading the team with nine homeruns last season, he is a vocal guy and a coach on the field.

Another strong veteran leader is Cusick. After hitting .293 last season with 40 RBIs, he is in position to have another great year. Both he and Larson were potential Major League Baseball draftees who the Anteaters will gladly take back for their senior seasons.

A few young guys in the mix to start despite being sophomores are D.J. Crumlich, Tommy Reyes and Jordan Fox.

Crumlich, an Irvine High alum, had a solid freshman year last season, hitting .261 in 161 at-bats with 30 RBIs.

Reyes is also coming off of a great freshman year where he hit .348 in 92 at-bats despite being hindered most of the season by a back injury. It is still unknown whether he will play this weekend due to an off-season again impaired with injury and the subsequent large amount of catching up he has to do.

If Reyes is unable to start on Friday we may still see a sophomore duo at third base and shortstop, with Crumlich at short and Fox filling in at third base.

Despite throwing left-handed and only being 5’8”, Jordan Fox has proven himself as a versatile player who can be placed almost anywhere on the field.

He could also end up in an outfield headed by seniors Olsen and Bell. They collectively hit 39 RBIs and 11 doubles last season in a combined 195 at-bats.

Rounding out the rest of the outfield are senior Sean Madigan, who had a promising junior campaign ruined by a serious knee injury, and redshirt junior Ryan Fisher, who hit .320 in 49 games last season. Needless to say, the outfield depth for the ’Eaters is impressive.

Elsewhere around the field are backup catcher/designated hitter Ronnie Shaeffer, who earned Freshman All-American honors and led UCI with a .388 average last season — as a freshman. Incoming junior college transfer Drew Hillman was drafted in the 38th round by the Tampa Bay Rays but did not sign and instead will see playing time around the infield for the ’Eaters.

In evaluation of the 2010 team there have been many positives, but one strong negative. The team does not have much speed after losing the 2009 Big West Player of the Year Ben Orloff. He led the team last season with 18 stolen bases and 62 runs.

“We swing the bat a whole hell of a lot better than we run … Our lack of ability to run will be pretty evident,” Gillespie said.

The key to making up for their lack of speed will be in hitting a lot of doubles. Also, rather than straight stealing, they will need to be able to hit and run. Anteater Ballpark is a dominantly pitching-friendly park, so home runs will not be frequent either.

Nonetheless, look for the scrappy ’Eaters to be able to put up plenty of runs this Spring.