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February 14, 2014

Arizona baseball preview: Lineup

The Arizona baseball lineup will have a younger look when the Wildcats open the season Friday against Kent State at Hi Corbett Field.

With Johnny Field and Brandon Dixon out of the equation - as well as Ryan Koziol who transferred during the offseason - room has opened up for a few spots in the starting lineup.

Bobby Dalbec, ranked as the 43rd best freshman in country by Baseball America, looks poised to take over at first base this season for Arizona. Out of Parker, Colo., Dalbec brings power bat and a Perfect Game scout noted a strong arm with quick arm action.

Another freshman who could make some major noise in the Pac-12 Conference is Michael Hoard. The Tucson product was a first-team all-region selection on the West Coast and also is competing to start at first base for head coach Andy Lopez. In three years as a starter for Salpointe High School, Hoard hit 25 home runs and drove in 118 runs while finishing with a career .448 batting average.

"A lot of power. One from the right side obviously, one from the left," Lopez said. "[The frshmen are] young and you can't deny that. Although they look good right now in intrasquads and practices, you still have to see them in games."

Rounding out the rest of the infield will likely be Kevin Newman at shortstop, Trent Gilbert at second, Riley Moore at catcher and Cody Ramer at third.

Newman had quite the offseason, becoming the first freshman ever to take home the Cape Cod league batting title. Oh, and by the way, he hit .336 with a .978 fielding percentage in his freshman year. Not an easy thing to do when you have to follow up former Pac-12 player of the year Alex Mejia.

"I had asked Kevin to jump up a little bit," Lopez said. "Although he didn't see Alex Mejia, I told him a few stories about Alex Mejia and the type of leadership he had at short, which is what you need out of your shortstop. Kevin Newman is doing a great job."

Moore, who injured his knee during summer ball in the Cape, should be ready to go by Friday night, according to Lopez. If he can't play, either Jordan Berger or Nathan Zavos will take over duties behind the plate.

In the outfield, Zach Gibbons will stay in left, Scott Kingery will move to right and veteran Joe Maggi will take over in center.

"You have plenty of guys out here with national championship experience," Maggi said. "We know what it takes and what you have to do to get there."

Gibbons and Maggi both finished the 2013 regular season with a .320 batting average, while Kingery finished fifth on the team in stolen bases.

"We don't really know what our identity is yet, but you get that as the season goes along," Maggi said. "I feel like after the 2012 season we kind of jumped ahead and thought it was just given to you. We took it for granted. We're just thinking postseason now and want to host in front of our fans like we did."

First pitch on Opening Day is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Projected starting lineup: SS Newman, 2B Gilbert, LF Gibbons, 1B Dalbec, C Moore/Berger, 3B Ramer, DH Willie Calhoun, RF Kingery, CF Maggi

Recommended lineup: SS Newman, CF Maggi, 2B Gilbert, LF Dalbec, 1B Gibbons, C Moore, DH Calhoun, 3B Ramer, RF Kingery

Danny PassovoyDanny Passovoy
GOAZCATS.com Baseball Staff Writer

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