Preview: UC Irvine Lineup

Irvine has an extremely experienced lineup so the Anteaters expected to have a strong offense this season. However, they struggled out of the gate and hit only .278 in the first 17 games and scored 6+ runs only five times. The Anteaters have gotten red hot at the plate in their last seven games, hitting .387 and scoring 81 runs.

Irvine's philosophy at the plate has changed from what they were doing the past few years.  The Anteaters were in the top five nationally in SAC's and SB's in 2007 and led the country in SAC's last year and were ranked in the top 40 in SB's.  Irvine is bunting less and averaging about one SAC bunt per game while running much less and averaging less than a SB per game.  It wouldn't be a surprise if Irvine did bunt more this weekend if these are low scoring games and runs need to be scratched out one at a time.  The Anteaters will work counts and are averaging about four walks per game.  Irvine has been hitting for more power this season and is averaging about an HR per game with a good balance throughout their lineup.

Irvine has been an outstanding fielding team this season, ranking in the top 20 nationally in fielding % at .975.  Irvine is strong up the middle at C, SS and CF while the corners of the infield and outfield have been adequate, areas where the Anteaters struggled last year.

Infield

C – JR Francis Larson (RH - .301-3-20-4) was the backup the past couple of years but was a regular at LF/DH to get his bat into the lineup and he led the team in HR's and RBI's last season (2008 – .314-7-40-5).  He is not patient at the plate and has only 2 BB's with 15 K's.  Despite being in his first year as the starter, Larson has done a good job blocking pitches (19 WP's and PB's) and has been stellar against baserunners, who are only 9-23 on SB attempts against him.  Larson will usually hit in the middle of the lineup.  He is 4-15 in his career against Fullerton.

DH – FR Ronnie Shaeffer (RH – .519-2-8-0) didn't play prior to the Nevada series eight games ago.  Since being inserted into the lineup Shaeffer has gone 14-27 with a .852 slugging % with only 1 K and has been a major catalyst behind Irvine's outburst on offense.  Shaeffer has started at catcher twice and DH in his other starts.  One of the DH's earlier in the year who is now primarily pinch-hitting in key situations is Brock Bardeen (LH – .233-6-16-0), who is an extreme example of an all or nothing hitter.  He has only 7 hits but 6 have gone for HR's and he has 10 K's in 30 AB's.  Bardeen is 3-21 in his career against Fullerton.  FR Jordan Leyland (RH – 7-16) has also been getting some playing time recently and figures to get some AB's.

1B – JR Jeff Cusick (RH - .276-0-6-0) has gotten off to a slow start after leading the team in BA last season (2008 – .363-0-29-4).  He has not been hitting for much power (only 3 of 24 H's are for extra bases) but is patient at the plate as one of the team leaders in BB's the last two seasons.  Cusick is also one of the more difficult players in the country to strike out with only 5 K's in 73 AB's.  He is still hitting in the middle of the lineup as the coaches wait for him to heat up.  Cusick is 3-12 in his career against Fullerton.

2B – JR Casey Stevenson (LH – .297-0-10-2) has also gotten off to a slow start while adjusting to playing a new position after playing 3B last year as a JC transfer (2008 – .300-3-14-1) who didn't get eligible until nearly halfway into the season.  He was hitting in the middle of the lineup earlier in the season but has been hitting at the bottom of the lineup lately.  Stevenson has also struggled defensively, making four errors.  He went 3-9 with a HR against Fullerton last season.

SS – SR Ben Orloff (RH - .372-0-10-7) is the glue that holds things together and hits at the top of the lineup.  He doesn't hit for power (30 singles, 5 doubles) but he does everything else very well on the baseball diamond.  Orloff leads the team in SB's and SAC bunts (8) and led the nation in SAC bunts in 2006 and 2007.  He has started 178 consecutive games and is on pace to be Irvine's career leader in runs scored and games played.  Orloff is patient at the plate, leading the team in BB's last season, and is also one of the best contact hitters in the country with only 5 K's in 94 AB's.  He is also an outstanding defensive player and was the 1st team all-conference SS last season (2008 – .344-0-23-19).  Orloff is 8-37 in his career against Fullerton.

3B – JR Eric Deragisch (RH - .403-1-14-1) was average offensively and defensively last season (2008 – .299-1-16-6 with 10 E's) but has been on fire lately, going 13-26 during Irvine's seven game offensive onslaught and was the conference player of the week after going 7-11 against Cal Poly.  He is also a versatile player who has been playing some OF and has been playing better defensively this season, making only 2 E's.  Deragisch is a good bunter who had 14 SAC's last year.  He doesn't have much power and will usually hit at the top of the lineup along with Orloff. 

FR DJ Crumlich (RH – .258-1-17-2) has been a part-time starter at both 2B and 3B, playing 3B when Deragisch plays in the OF and platooning with Stevenson, and is 3rd on the team in RBI's despite being a part-time player.  Crumlich is patient at the plate, with 14 BB's in 62 AB's.

Outfield

LF – Soph Ryan Fisher (LH - .343-2-18-0) was 2nd on the team in RBI's as one of Irvine's more productive hitters last season (2008 – .299-3-37-7) but struggled defensively at 2B due to a foot injury and is playing LF this year.  Fisher hits in the middle of the lineup as a solid LH bat in a mostly RH hitting lineup but has a big swing and leads the team with 19 K's.  He was 4-7 against Fullerton last season.

CF – JC transfer Cory Olson (RH – .295-3-13-2) had some big shoes to fill replacing Ollie Linton, who was a disruptive force on the bases and one of the faster players in college baseball.  Olson is the fastest player on the team and has good range in CF, which is needed to cover the large OF area at Irvine's ballpark.  He was hitting leadoff earlier in the season but has struggled hitting lately and been dropped to the bottom of the lineup.

RF – SR Tony Asaro (RH – .220-0-5-2) is a big guy with power potential (2008 – .314-4-21-0 in 102 AB's) who has struggled this season.  JR Dillon Bell (LH – .214-1-8-1) figured to see more playing time after playing well last season (2008 – .326-5-30-2) but he has also struggled.  Deragisch has been seeing time in RF as the coaches mix and match lineup combos to get more out of the offense.  Sean Madigan hit .328 last season and figured to be one of the starters but injured his knee the second weekend of the season and is going to be a medical redshirt.