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2009 UNC-Wilmington Season Preview: Infield

WILMINGTON, N.C. – UNCW lost a total of 31 home runs and 128 runs batted in with the departures of Nate Hall and Daniel Hargrave, but Head Coach Mark Scalf feels he has a veteran player ready to step in and a newcomer ready to contribute immediately in those positions.

Returning for the Seahawks will be the steady and hard-nosed Mike Rooney at shortstop. Rooney made just four errors in his final 24 games and fielded at a .967 clip over that span. At the plate, Rooney hit .282 and compiled an on-base average of .418. “Michael is our leader in the infield,” said Scalf, who was a four-time letterwinner for the Seahawks during his career at UNCW. “He has great baseball awareness and keeps everyone involved in the game.”

Returning to the Seahawks after an injury plagued sophomore campaign will be Matt Holt. As a red-shirt freshman in 2007, Holt started 44 games at second base, but made the switch to third base in the fall. “Matt provides us additional leadership on the field, having already seen time as a starter earlier in his career. His athleticism and awareness of the game are tremendous strengths for him.” In 2007, Holt hit .274 with 11 double and four homers while committing just four miscues in 181 chances.

Joining the UNCW infield will be junior college second baseman Ben Thielsen, who hails from Edmonds CC, the same school that produced former Seahawk standouts Aaron Smith and Tim Preston. At Edmonds, Thielsen hit .342 in a wood-bat conference with 46 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. “Ben brings a “dirt-bag” mentality to our club. He’ll play hard every day and do what we need offensively and defensively to be successful.”

At first base, sophomore Alex Hill, who finished his rookie season in a platoon at first base, showed an uncanny knack of getting on base by drawing 35 walks in 130 plate appearances and posting an on-base average of .482. Hill also showed a glimpse of what he may be able to bring in the form of power with four homers and knocking in 22 runs. “We feel like he will be able to hit for us, it’s just matter of being more consistent defensively for him.”

Also in the mix at first base for the Seahawks is junior college transfer first baseman Robbie Monday. After missing most of his sophomore season at Surry CC, Monday has been able to get back on track and give the Seahawks needed power at a corner position. Monday was an All-Region selection at Surry after hitting .382 with six homers and 46 RBI. “Coming off a foot injury in the fall he was playing catch-up in the preseason, but he has worked hard to put himself in position to help us from the leftside of the plate.”

The strength of the Seahawk infield is the depth and versatility that can come off the bench.

Looking to push for time this season will be freshmen Cameron Cockman, Austin Sandy and Aaron Jones. Cockman, who played shortstop in high school, was an All-State selection for Southeast Guilford while hitting .435 and knocking in 41 runs. “Cameron has made tremendous progress since the fall and has positioned himself to be one of our top options off the bench around the infield.”

Rounding out the infield are Sandy and Jones. Sandy had a solid preseason at shortstop while Jones is in the mix along with Hill and Monday at first base. “Austin gives us a lefthanded bat with some speed and is a solid defensive replacement in the infield. Aaron, as he gains a feel for the college game, should be able to give us additional power from the leftside.”

Up next for the Seahawks will be the outfielders on Wednesday.

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