Feb. 12, 2008
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Senior Shea Robin started in 61 of 63 games played last season and the coaches believe he is the top returning defensive catcher in the country. In addition to batting .286 with two homers and 35 RBI with the occasional clutch hit a year ago, the Woodlands, Texas, product also adeptly handled a pitching staff that boasted the top ERA in the league at 3.55.
Sophomore Andrew Giobbi will serve as the backup behind the plate and could also see time in the field and at the designated hitter spot. Giobbi always made hard contact as a redshirt freshman and finished the year with a .312 batting average to go with 10 doubles, a homer and 25 RBI.
Freshman Curt Casali, one of the top prospects out of New England and the future starter at catcher, should get some playing time as well. Another freshman, Drew Fann from Murfreesboro, Tenn., will spend the year getting stronger and challenge for time in 2009.
"Nobody is going to move Shea (Robin) from behind the plate, but we have guys like (Andrew) Giobbi who are going to have to play because of their bat," said Corbin. "He has also developed into a very good number two catcher and could be a number one catcher on most teams."
Senior Brad French and his stellar defensive skills return to man first base. The Nashville native hit .267 with two homers, eight doubles and 23 RBI last season, while also flashing a stellar glove with just three errors in 441 chances at first. He looks to build upon his offensive numbers after battling through a case of mono a year ago.
Redshirt freshman Steven Liddle will likely see some time at first as well as in the outfield and at DH. The Franklin, Tenn., native has displayed a knack for hitting and should be a future starter at a position still to be determined. Another potential starter down the road is freshman Aaron Westlake who has power in his bat and solid defensive skills. Senior Adam Cronk should also get playing time and provides veteran knowledge and leadership.
Senior Alex Feinberg returns for his third year as a starter and his second year manning second base. The Orinda, Calif., product showed more offensive punch last season, setting a career high with four homers, 17 doubles and 44 RBI while batting .317. He also showed a steady glove, with just six errors in 246 chances.
Sophomore Brian Harris will serve as the backup at the middle infield positions and should see plenty of action in a variety of roles. He batted .283 in 29 games a year ago with eight starts and has consistently improved his game in three years at VU.
Junior Ryan Flaherty is back for his third season as a starter and is the lynchpin of the infield. A steady fielder who makes all of the routine plays, Flaherty is also one of the most consistent bats in the lineup. He batted .381 with four homers, 23 doubles and 57 RBI en route to All-American honors last year and ended the season with a 35 game hitting streak still intact.
Freshman Gabe Ortiz is a slick fielding infielder and a player of the future for the Commodores. He could see playing time this year, but will most definitely make his impact on the program in years to come.
Junior Pedro Alvarez returns as the top power producer in the lineup. The New York City native has certainly lived up to everyone's expectations when he arrived on campus in the fall of 2005 as one of the top recruits in the nation. He was the National Freshman of the Year in 2006 and built upon that with an even better 2007 in which he hit a team best .386 with 18 homers and 68 RBI. He walked a team high 40 times and also had 21 doubles and three triples en route to unanimous All-American plaudits.
"I think the infield is going to be very steady," said Corbin. "We've got a good athlete at first base (Brad French), we've got a guy who doesn't make mistakes at second base (Alex Feinberg), we've got a very consistent guy at shortstop (Ryan Flaherty), and we've got a good athlete at third base (Pedro Alvarez). The key is going to be for our pitchers to get the ball in play so that we can pick it up and throw it over to first and keep people from scoring. If we keep the ball in the infield, we're not going to make mistakes.