Inside the Clubhouse: 2018 UNO Infield Preview
Privateers begin season next Friday at home
NEW ORLEANS – There are many new faces across the diamond for the University of New Orleans with three infield positions up for grabs as the 2018 season is nearly upon us. The Privateers begin with the Andre Dawson Classic February 16 at Maestri Field.
Gone are the starters in the middle infield after the graduation of shortstop Aaron Palmer and second baseman Samuel Capielano. The 2017 team went 30-28-1 overall and appeared in the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament.
“We have a huge void in the middle infield,” said head coach Blake Dean. “Those are key positions and we lose two veterans that ran out infield for the past two seasons. This year, (Darren) Willis will start at short but we’re still trying to figure out second. There’s a lot of competition and we’ll see if someone separates themselves in the coming days.”
Willis brings experience and a steady glove at short. The Metairie native played in 16 games and started seven. He also saw action at third base toward the end of last season when Owen Magee missed the conference tournament due to injury.
Second base is a much different story from an experience standpoint. The competition is between Chris Delgado, Colin Morrill, Devin Morrill, and Samuel Weidie. Of those four, two were on the 2017 squad – Weidie and Colin Morrill – combining for four total at-bats (Weidie; Morrill redshirted). Devin Morrill is a senior transfer who last played at Nicholls and Delgado is a true freshman from Fort Worth, Texas.
Magee brings stability and experience over at the hot corner. The Delgado transfer made a mark in his first season with the Privateers. He started in 54 games and finished second on the team in batting average. Magee slashed a line of .314/.396/.478 with five homers and 46 RBI. He also led the team in doubles with 17.
“We’re counting on Owen to be a steady bat in the meat of our order,” said Dean. “For us to be successful, he will have to produce from the No. 3 or cleanup hole.”
With the loss of Dakota Dean, first base will also see a new face with Cody Ducote, Scott Crabtree and Jacob McFadden vying for the starting job on Opening Day. Also, John Cable could be in the mix after suffering a torn hamstring over the summer.
“People take first base as an offensive position, but you need to have a good defensive first baseman,” said Dean. “There’s a lot of competition right now and we are looking for somebody that can make our lineup better and help us defensively.”
A Jesuit graduate and Metairie native, Crabtree played in 21 games over his first two seasons on the Lakefront. Ducote and McFadden are both transfers. Ducote has one year of eligibility left after coming over from LSU. McFadden is a junior transfer from Eastern Florida State College where he hit .342 with eight homers and 39 RBI last season.
Cable was slated to be the starting catcher going into this year, but an offseason injury has derailed that plan for the time being. Coach Dean still hopes to have Cable in the lineup either at first base or as a designated hitter to start the season.
“I think he can play first base right now,” said Dean. “The injury is tough to battle back from but he has been taking ground balls at first and if his swing is ready, we’re going to put him in the lineup and hope he can continue to produce the way he did last season.”
With Cable’s injury, behind the plate features an intriguing competition between Beau Bratton and Kenneth Yetter. Bratton transferred from Mississippi Gulf Coast after hitting .301 with 19 runs in 26 games. Bratton also sported an on-base percentage of .430. Yetter suffered a broken finger that set him back in the fall, but according to Dean, he has come back looking good in the spring. Yetter was the fifth ranked catcher in Oklahoma according to Perfect Game and he earned Rawlings-Perfect Game All-American honorable mention in 2017.
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