Air Force Season Preview: First, Third, and Catcher

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
First Base
Air Force’s biggest run producers will man first base. Junior Addison Gentry will get the bulk of the playing time at first with fellow junior Matt Alexander seeing time primarily as the designated hitter. The two, both left-handed hitters, were Air Force’s top home run and RBI producers as sophomores. This year will be no different as both are expected to be the team’s three and four hitters in the lineup.

Gentry had a solid sophomore campaign, leading the team with 19 doubles and 46 RBIs. In addition, Gentry was second with six homers. Developing into a clutch hitter, Gentry led the team with four game-winning RBIs and scored three game-winning runs. As a sophomore, Gentry started 46 games at first and ranked amongst the conference top-10 in putouts and fielding percentage at first.

Alexander was also one of Air Force’s top hitters, leading the team with seven homers and finishing second with 45 RBIs and .539 slugging percentage. As a sophomore, Alexander had one of the best offensive outputs in a game in school history, when he went 6-for-7 against Doane College. In that game, Alexander hit for the cycle, hit two triples and drove in 11 runs. The 11 runs scored and 14 total bases are conference records.

“Addison and Matt will anchor the three and four spots in our lineup,” head coach Mike Hutcheon said. “They have proven experience as solid hitters and came through in several clutch situations as sophomores. They have shown improvement in their hitting each year with the program and this year should be no different. They will be the heart of our lineup and we will look for them to produce runs throughout the year.”

Third Base
Arguably one of the most difficult infield positions at Falcon Field, third base duties are slated to be handled by sophomore Vai Schierholtz. A steady player, Schierholtz took over the third base job midway through the season as a freshman because of his defensive ability. Schierholtz played in 31 games, starting 20 at third.

“Vai is just a gamer,” Hutcheon said. “All that we ask out of our third baseman is to make the routine play and Vai has been able to come in a give us some stability at third. His bat is improving as well and that will be an added bonus for us.”

Backing up Schierholtz at third will be junior Ben Ausbun. Ausbun has two years of starting experience at third and will be a valuable right-handed bat. As a sophomore, Ausbun began to show his offensive potential, batting .289 with nine doubles and 33 hits in 38 games played. In addition to his ability to play third, Ausbun will also see some time in the outfield.

“Ben is a solid ball player,” Hutcheon said. “His ability to hit will make him a valuable asset in various situations,” Hutcheon said. “Ben can play multiple positions for us and brings us another experienced bat into the lineup.”

Catcher
Sophomore Parker Mayo is slated to handle the starting catching duties. Already one of the top defensive catchers in the conference, Mayo brings some strong credentials into his sophomore season. As a freshman, Mayo committed just one error in 123 chances for an impressive .992 fielding percentage. Possessing a quick release and strong arm, Mayo threw out 33 percent of base runners attempting to steal last year.

“Parker will be a valuable asset at catcher for us this year,” Hutcheon said. “He has already developed a strong rapport with our pitching staff and they feel comfortable throwing to him. Defensively, we feel he is one of the top catchers in the conference and his arm will help slow down the opposition’s run game. In addition, worked really hard this off season and has made significant improvements offensively.”

Backing up Mayo will be a pair of freshmen. Jake Byorth, a converted infielder, and Jack Lupo will see time at catcher. Lupo will be used primarily as an outfielder, but has seen time at catcher during Fall ball.

“Jake has quickly adapted to the catcher position after making the transition from the infield. In addition to Jack, the two freshmen will get their opportunities behind the plate. They both show tremendous promise and we expect great things out of them in the future.”

First Base
Jr. Addison Gentry (.289 Avg., 19 2B, 6 HR, 46 RBIs, .510 SLG)
Jr. Matt Alexander (.306 Avg., 11 2B, 7 HR, 45 RBIs, .529 SLG – 2009 Preseason All-MWC)

Third Base
So. Vai Schierholtz (.230 Avg., 17 hits, 12 RBIs, .941 FLD PCT)
Jr. Ben Ausbun (.289, 33 hits, 15 RBIs, 38 games played)

Catcher
So. Parker Mayo (.992 fielding PCT, just one error in 123 chances, threw out 33.3 percent of steal attempts)
Fr. Jack Lupo (Indianapolis native will mostly see action in the outfield)
Fr. Jake Byorth (Converted infielder was a three-year letter winner at St. Charles Prep)