Jan. 24, 2012
PITTSBURGH – This year’s Pittsburgh Panther baseball team will have a significantly new identity compared to that of a year ago, especially with regards to the 2012 infield. Sophomore shortstop Derik Wilson is the only returning starting infielder this season, and looks to anchor the defensive duties of the Pittsburgh Panthers. Wilson held a .241 batting average in 46 games a year ago, including a .327 on-base percentage. With new faces set to accompany Wilson in the infield, the coaching staff is hopeful that they can continue building this program to perform just as well as they did in 2011 (where they finished 33-23, 16-11 in the Big East).
Associate head coach Danny Lopaze praises the athleticism of this year’s infield. From what he first shared in the outfield preview, speed and longevity is of the utmost importance to this entire baseball team.
Lopaze envisions a variety of options for this season’s infield and believes that such flexibility will work greatly toward the team’s advantage. The emphasis of competition will be critical in the coming weeks leading up to the season opener, set for Feb. 17.
This is the third release of a series of baseball previews highlighting what to expect for the 2012 Pittsburgh Panther baseball team.
Q&A with Pitt Associate Head Coach Danny Lopaze...
After only returning one starter from last year’s lineup, what should Panther fans expect to see on the infield?
Panther fans can expect to see more consistency as well as athleticism all the way around the infield. We lost three starters but gained much needed speed and overall athleticism at each position. We feel we are balanced with solid range, good foot speed and strong arms.
You mentioned you feel there’s more athleticism at each position, what kind of depth does this year’s team have?
We are very fortunate to have players capable of playing multiple positions on the infield. Ron Sucre gives us a solid glove at third base. Evan Oswald has taken reps at shortstop and third base and has done a great job at both positions. Transfer Kevin Johnson has great hands, great range and loose actions at shortstop. Derik Wilson is our only returning starter from last year’s lineup and has done a great job at second base and looks very comfortable. We have three guys who are all very capable of seeing time at first base with Rick Devereaux, Eric Hess and Sam Parente. Rick has swung the bat as well as anybody and Eric had a great fall at the plate and is great around the bag. Sam has power to all fields and is one of the strongest guys we have on the team.
Being a northern program how are you able to get consistent reps with the infielders; ground balls, etc?
Similar to the outfielders we are extremely fortunate to have great facilities at PITT. We have yet to be inside for an infield workout which is great and the field turf has allowed us to do much more than in years past. We have been able to work on fly ball communication, double play feeds, position specific plays, left-side reads and full infield defense outside on our field. Not too many with our climate can say that.
What is the overall emphasis you try to get across to the infielders?
A hard-nosed focused mentality every pitch. They have to come to work every day and from a coaching standpoint, that’s all you can ask for.
Do the infielders have more of an advantage at obtaining the PITT Baseball PITT BULL tags?
The outfielders and catchers would probably tell you that they do because of the amount of reps they get, but we try and look at each group objectively. The same principle can be used against them because since sometimes they might get a few more reps they also have the opportunity to make more mistakes. The PITT BULL tags are in place to provide a competitive focus on every ball hit in play and a desire to be the best!