Preview: UC Riverside Lineup

UC Riverside only lost two players (2B Drew Garcia, LF Aaron Wible – both were 1st team all conference in 2008) from last year whom they needed to find replacements for. Having such an experienced lineup, it figured that Riverside would be improved offensively and they have been, hitting .290 (.269 in 2008) with an OBP of .381 (.339 in 2008) and a .440 SLG % (.372 in 2008).

The Highlanders are averaging close to 7 runs per game this season after averaging just over 5 runs per game in 2008.  If there has been one key to what Riverside has been doing at the plate, it has been plate discipline.  The Highlanders are 2nd in the Big West with 86 BB's and lead the conference in the fewest K's with 96, an outstanding ratio of nearly 1:1.  The hitters for Riverside are sitting on their pitch, putting it play and driving it, not missing it.  They aren't hitting many HR's (14 – three of them last Monday) but they are leading the conference and ranked in the top 30 nationally with 48 doubles.  The Highlanders don't play too much little ball, ranking last in the conference with five SAC's and next to last with 23 SB attempts although when they run, they are usually successful with 19 SB's.  Riverside only had a .967 fielding % last season but they made major improvements as the season went on, fielding .981 in conference games and that has carried over to this season with a .973 fielding % and 20 E's (5 in one game against Columbia) in 19 games, which ranks in the top 30 nationally.

Infield

C – Soph Daniel Pellegrino (RH – .222-1-3-0) is the only C back of the three who played last year (2008 - .207-0-8-0).  He usually starts twice in a series with FR Robert Brantly (LH – .314-1-5-0) starting the other game.  Either will usually bat 7th.  Baserunners are 15-17 on SB attempts (Pellegrino 7-9, Brantly 8-8) and the C's have allowed 22 WP's/PB's so this has been one of their weaker areas defensively.  Pellegrino was 5-15 against Fullerton in 2008.

1B – JC transfer Brian McConkey (LH – .208-0-9-2) hasn't hit much but has very good plate discipline, with 13 BB's and 11 K's in 53 AB's.  He usually bats 6th.  McConkey had been good defensively before making 3 E's in the last 3 games.

2B – JR Bryan Horst (RH – .209-0-4-0) was the SS last year before getting injured in the series before conf games started and missed the rest of the season.  Horst is strong defensively and in the lineup for his glove and has struggled at the plate, usually batting 8th.

SS – Soph Trevor Hairgrove (RH – .339-1-14-2) moved into the lineup last year when Horst was injured and played SS the rest of the season.  He has stayed at the SS position and done well offensively and defensively.  Hairgrove has been a clutch hitter, hitting .417 with runners on base and .438 with runners in scoring position.  He usually bats 9th.  Hairgrove was 5-13 against Fullerton in 2008.

3B – JR Ryan Goetz (LH – .284-1-19-3) is not the typical cleanup hitter with only 1 HR but he has been productive by leading the team in RBI's.  He has been one of the better contact hitters in D1, striking out only twice in 74 AB's.  Goetz has been solid defensively.  He is a three year starter and is 5-25 in his career against Fullerton.

Outfield

LF – Soph Tony Nix (RH – .455-1-16-5) didn't play much last year (2008 – .189-2-10-0) but has gotten a chance to play this year and has been hitting the tar out of the ball.  Nix currently has a 16 game hitting and has 10 multiple hit games.  He is 2nd in the conf in BA, 1st in 2B's, 4th in OBP and 5th in SLG.  Nix has good speed and good range in the OF.  He usually bats 5th.  

CF – SR Carl Uhl (Both – .370-3-16-2) bats leadoff, has very good speed, is the best baserunner on the team and led the team in SB's the last two seasons (23 in 2008, 15 in 2007).  Uhl is also very patient at the plate and drew 24 BB's last year and 36 BB's in 2007.  After hitting only .272-2-23 with a .347 SLG % last year, Uhl has hit for more power and is 2nd on the team with a .593 SLG %.  Uhl is 7-27 in his career against Fullerton.

RF – JR Joey Gonzales (LH - .243-3-13-3) usually hits 2nd and is also a three year starter but has gotten off to a slow start for the 2nd year in a row.  He was hitting only .250 going into conf play last year and hit .360 in conf games, raising his average to .330 for the season with 4 HR's and 29 RBI's.  Gonzales was 2nd team all-conference last season after being named Big West FR of the Year in 2007.  Gonzales has very good speed and had 15 SB's last season.  Gonzales is 8-28 with 1 HR in his career against Fullerton.

DH – JC transfer Michael Hur (RH – .298-2-15-0) has been productive in his first full season in D1 (he got a few AB's at Riverside in 2007 before transferring to Riverside JC last year) and usually bats 3rd.  Michael Nesbitt (RH – 5-23) has also made a few starts at DH.