Current Date: Sat, 08 Mar 2014 17:50:47 -0500
Of all the places on the diamond where the North Carolina baseball team lost players from last year’s squad, the outfield took the hardest hit.
Two of the three players that logged the most innings in the Boshamer Stadium grass, Ben Bunting and Seth Baldwin, are no longer with the team.
The last man standing is junior Chaz Frank, who hit .278 in 230 at bats last spring.
“I’m going to be out there with a lot of young guys, and they’re going to look for me to lead out there,” Frank said. “And they were two good bats that we lost out there too in Ben and Seth. Hopefully, we’ll have some young guys step in.”
Offensively, Bunting and Baldwin combined for 79 runs and 67 RBI last season. In the field, Bunting was credited with just one error and Baldwin finished the season with a perfect fielding percentage.
Coach Mike Fox acknowledged that his outfield lost a lot of experience, but said those spots in the lineup are open for someone to step up and make an impact.
“Obviously when you lose players, veteran players, players that have been in big games and been in big situations, it’s a void, but that’s the nature of it,” Fox said. “You hear coaches say all the time, ‘Well, it’s an opportunity for somebody else.’”
A freshman from Huntersville has already claimed one of those spots in the outfield. Which one exactly, Fox isn’t sure yet.
“Michael Russell is going to play for us every day somewhere, either in right or left,” Fox said. “He’s got a chance to be a really special player … He’s physically mature for a freshman. A tough right-handed hitter, which we needed.”
Frank has been impressed with his new cohort so far in practice.
“He’s come in and worked hard,” Frank said. “I think as a freshman he’ll be able to step in and give us some significant time in the outfield.”
As for the third outfielder, that spot is still up in the air. Fox said that he’s been rotating two freshmen, Adam Griffin and Bradley Morton, in practice and has liked what he’s seen. But Griffin suffered a fracture in his left ankle last week and according to a team spokesperson has no set timetable for return.
Sophomore Brian Holberton also held down an outfield spot a handful of times last season. He might be asked to play in the outfield again this year in response to Griffin’s injury.
“It’s just a matter of who’s going to play left and who’s going to (be designated hitter),” Fox said. “We’ll have two guys out there, and we’ll see how they do.”
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