Inside the Clubhouse: 2018 UNO Outfield Preview
Season begins with Andre Dawson Classic Feb. 16
NEW ORLEANS – Where the infield will see a pretty different look, the outfield for the University of New Orleans will be manned by familiar faces in the projected Opening Day lineup. The 2018 campaign begins with the Andre Dawson Classic February 16.
Orynn Veillon, Jay Robinson, and Jared McKay all return off last year’s team and bring experience to the outfield, starting 102 games between the trio in 2017. Veillon was the Privateers’ starting center fielder and led the team in homers, RBI and slugging percentage with the majority of his plate appearances coming from the nine hole. A third-team All-Southland Conference selection in 2017, he begins the season as a Perfect Game USA and Southland Preseason first teamer.
“He is one of the most athletic players in the Southland,” said head coach Blake Dean. “We saw what he did last year with the 15 home runs. As he continues to improve his plate disclipine and draw more walks, he will showcase his speed and steal some bases for us. He will continue to improve into a complete ballplayer not only for us but at the next level.”
Robinson came to New Orleans and floated around the infield as a freshman. The lone player on the team that wore the Silver and Blue prior to Dean taking over as head coach, Robinson made the move to outfield in Dean’s inaugural season. After a breakout sophomore season, Robinson unfortunately was hampered by injuries throughout last season. Still, he started 35 games and has done all the little things asked of him to help this offense. His ability to sacrifice and execute in hit-and-run situations may be called upon even more this season.
“Jay has done a very good job of that and that’s what got him in the lineup,” said Dean. “If I asked for a squeeze, he’d squeeze. Hit and run, he got it done. He executes when you ask him and that’s important because that’s a guy I can rely on in late innings of a close ballgame.”
McKay adds another speed element to the outfield. A transfer from Spartanburg Methodist, McKay started last season hot, collecting eight hits in his first 13 at-bats. After that point, he was held to two hits over 34 at-bats. He stole three bases in four tries while being used primarily as the team’s pinch running option.
“Our outfield should be pretty quick,” said Coach Dean. “We’ll probably give Jared the opportunity to start in right and see where he can go with it. He’s earned it with his defense, arm strength and speed. He’s a great all-around student-athlete in and out the classroom.”
Rounding out the outfield depth chart, Dean mentioned John Thomas Mauldin, Jacob McFadden and Pearce Howard as guys who will provide some more options in the outfield. McFadden is also being looked at as one of the potential candidates for the first base job.
Mauldin had a strong year at Baton Rouge Community College last season. He hit 21 doubles, eight homers, and drove in 44 runs, leading the team in the three categories. He also hit a team-best .364 and was highly efficient on the base paths, successfully swiping 36-of-37 opportunities.
Howard is coming into his freshman season on the Lakefront. He prepped at Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Va.
“Howard is strong and can hit the ball a long way,” said Dean. “We just have to teach him to be more consistent. McFadden has been doing very well since the start of spring. He’s physical and adds a little pop and a different dimension to our lineup. Mauldin struggled in the fall. I think it’s a little different for him, but he has power and is athletic.”
Stay tuned as we go to the mound to preview the pitching staff next. The Privateers will begin their season with the Andre Dawson Classic. Their first opponent will be Illinois-Chicago next Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Maestri Field.
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