Baseball Preview: UC Riverside Lineup

Riverside is a team that has an interesting approach at the plate. The Highlanders have hit 40 HR's (trailing only Fullerton) and have already passed last season's total of 37 HR's that was 6th in the conference.

Riverside doesn’t strike out much for a team that focuses on hitting for power (2nd in the Big West in SLG) and averages under 6 K’s per game (3rd fewest in the Big West) but they aren’t patient at the plate either because they are last in the conference in walks – they sit on pitches they are looking for and square them up early in the count. The Highlanders are 6th in the conf with a .297 AVG, last in OBP and have scored the second fewest runs in the conference but they have been hot lately and have scored 5+ runs in 10 of their last 11 games. Riverside does not play much little ball and they are last in the Big West with 18 SAC’s and 14 SB’s.

Riverside was the third best fielding team in the Big West in 2009 with a .970 FLD % and 65 errors. The Highlanders expected to have a good fielding team again this season and they are 3rd in the conference with a .971 FLD % and have made 42 errors, the fewest in the Big West, although they have made ten errors in their last six games. Their middle infielders have solid range but have made 21 errors. They have good defense in CF and RF but have been using DH types in LF. Riverside does have a very good catcher who will make it tough on baserunners.

Infield

Similar to Pacific last week, Riverside had returning starters at all five positions but lost their one returning all-conf player in the infield (3B Ryan Goetz) to a knee injury early this season.

C – Soph #11 Robert Brantly (LH – .338/.408/.537, 5-26-0; ’09 – .316/.344/.454, 4-23-0) is the cleanup hitter, one of the better C’s on the west coast and is expected to be drafted in the first few rounds next month as a draft eligible Soph. He is on a ten game hitting streak during which he is hitting .425. Brantly does a solid job of working with the pitching staff, blocking pitches and throwing out baserunners (21-35 SB’s and three pickoffs). He went 1-7 in last year’s series against Fullerton. JR #9 Dan Pellegrino (RH – .282 in 39 AB’s with 2 HR’s, 6 RBI’s) is a solid backup who would be starting for many teams and might see time behind the plate in one game with Brantly moving to DH. He is 6-19 in his career against Fullerton.

1B – SR #16 Brian McConkey (LH – .324/.385/.507, 1-20-1; ’09 – .256/.384/.314, 0-17-2) is unusual for a 1B because he has mostly gap power and he is a leadoff hitter without much speed. He has been one of the better hitters on the team during Big West games with a .352 AVG and had a six game hitting streak snapped at San Diego. McConkey does a good job defensively and moves well around the 1B bag. He went 0-7 in last year’s series with Fullerton.

2B – SR #1 Brian Horst (RH – .261/.297/.377, 3-18-0; ’09 - .227/.306/.297, 1-14-4) is in the lineup primarily for his defense and will usually hit 8th. Horst has good range (started most of the non-conf season at SS in 2008 before getting hurt) and made only 7 E’s last year for a .969 FLD % but has struggled some this year and already made 10 E’s for a .948 FLD %. He went 1-7 in last year’s series with Fullerton.

SS – JR #10 Trevor Hairgrove (RH – .271/.356/.466, 4-19-0; ’09 – .251/.343/.371, 2-29-3) was hitting well over .300 going into the conf season last year but struggled in Big West games, when he hit only .145. Hairgrove has hit a little better this year and is 9-25 in his last six games but is in the lineup primarily for his defense and usually hits 9th. He has solid range at SS and is 4th in the conf in assists but has made 11 E’s this season. Hairgrove went 1-10 in last year’s series and is 6-23 in his career against Fullerton.

3B – Soph #24 Eddie Young (LH – .263/.340/.363, 0-14-1; ’09 – .250 in 24 AB’s) was expected to be a reserve infielder with 1st team all-conf 3B Ryan Goetz returning but he injured his knee early in the year and Young was thrust into the lineup. He is part of a platoon with Soph #5 Trent Jemmett (RH – .271 in 48 AB’s with 2 HR’s; ’09 – .136 in 22 AB’s) but Young should start all three games with Fullerton’s RHP heavy rotation and batting 7th. Young has not fielded well and has a .914 FLD %.

Outfield

Carl Uhl was a three year starter in CF but he graduated, with one of the other OF’s moving over to CF and one of last year’s reserves moving into the lineup and being one of the most surprising hitters in the conference.

LF – JR #33 Justin Shults (LH – .385/.447/.726, 9-34-0; ’09 stats – .310 in 56 AB’s) was a reserve in 2009 who didn’t see much playing time but took advantage of his chance this year and has been mashing the ball while usually hitting 5th. He is the conf leader in SLG, 3rd in HR, 4th in AVG and 6th in OBP. Shults had a seven game stretch before last weekend where he went 15-27 with 6 HR and 14 RBI but has cooled off in his last four games, going 3-15.

CF – JR #15 Tony Nix (RH – .270/.353/.460, 3-14-2; ’09 – .318/.356/.514, 4-39-10) started in LF in 2009 and moved over to CF this year. He was on fire and hitting well over .400 going into the Big West schedule last season but came back to reality during conf games and only hit .208 against Big West pitching. Nix got off to a slow start and missed some time with injuries but has started to hit better and is 7-21 with 2 HR’s in his last five games and will usually hit 6th. He has solid range in CF. Nix went 1-11 in last year’s series against Fullerton.

RF – SR #3 Joey Gonzales (LH – .275/.338/.412, 3-16-6; ’09 – .261/.328/.418, 5-23-6) is one of the most experience players in the conference as a four year starter and was the Big West FR of the Year in 2007 and 2nd team all-conf in 2008 when he hit .330 with 15 SB’s. He struggled with minor injuries last season and got off to a slow start this year but has gotten hot and is on a ten game hitting streak, hitting .381 with 10 HR’s. Gonzales will usually hit 2nd and is the one SB threat in the lineup with nearly half of the team’s SB’s. He has good range in RF and played CF when Nix was out of the lineup. Gonzales went 1-9 in last year’s series and is 9-37 with one HR in his career against Fullerton.

DH – SR #25 Michael Hur (RH – .331/.386/.547, 6-29-2; ’09 stats – .372/.426/.583, 7-52-1) was 1st team all conf in 2009 after hitting .398 with 4 HR’s and 30 RBI in Big West games and was in the top ten in the conf in AVG, SLG and RBI. He will usually hit 3rd, is one of the most dangerous hitters in the lineup and went 6-13 last weekend at UCSB. Hur isn’t a good OF and will occasionally play LF. He went 2-10 in last year’s series with Fullerton and had a game winning 3 run HR in the Friday game.