The St. Bonaventure University baseball team begins its 2016 schedule on Feb. 19 at Savannah State. In the weeks leading up to the first pitch of the 2016 season, GoBonnies.com will preview the team by position. In this edition, the Bonnies infielders are featured.
The St. Bonaventure baseball team enters the season with very few question marks on the infield, returning three starters from a year ago.
Senior Tyler Walter returns to man first base after hitting .287 and starting 36 games last season. A solid contact hitter, Walter excels in hit-and-run situations and is very good defensively – he committed just three errors in the field in 2015.
Sophomore Matt Eastman played in nine games as a freshman and will also be in the mix as a backup at first along with junior Danny Urban, a left-handed hitting utility player who will also see time in the outfield after playing in 37 games last spring.
Head coach Larry Sudbrook calls shortstop a strength as the Bonnies return sophomore Cole Peterson, who Sudbrook compares to the best to ever play the position during his three decades at the helm of the program.
Peterson batted leadoff as a freshman, starting all 47 games while posting a .277 batting average with 14 RBIs and a team-high 34 runs. He also worked a team-high 28 walks and compiled a .384 on-base percentage. Peterson excels defensively as well – he was named the New York Collegiate Baseball League (NYCBL) Defensive Player of the Year this past summer while helping the Olean Oilers to a league championship.
At third base, senior Thad Johnson returns. A finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award last year, Johnson led the Bonnies in nearly every imaginable category – batting average (.357), hits (67) and RBIs (31) while also getting on-base at a .403 clip. Johnson will also have familiarity with the position after manning the hot corner last year – he had previously played centerfield as a freshman and shortstop as a sophomore.
"The only position that will need figured out in the first 15-to-20 games of the year is second base," Sudbrook says.
Three players will fight for the starting job in the early season – sophomore Aaron Phillips could be the nation's tallest second baseman at 6-foot-4 if he wins the job. Phillips brings the ability to make plays behind the bag and uses his strong arm to throw off-balance.
Even if Phillips wins the job, there will be a need for someone else to take starts as Phillips will also start games on the mound. Both junior Jared Baldinelli and newcomer Eric Willis will battle for the job as well.
Baldinelli brings a strong glove and good range, playing in 23 games as a sophomore after starting 21 as a freshman with a .266 batting average.
Willis joins the Bonnies after transferring from Kirkwood Community College in Iowa. He was named the 2014 Iowa High School Player of the Year after batting .457 with a .546 on-base percentage as a high school senior.
"Those three guys will get the opportunity, and before we start conference play we'll get it figured out," Sudbrook said.
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