Freshman first baseman Joe Dudek has been playing with great confidence and showing off some serious power to go with an advanced defensive game.
"I don't try to put too much pressure on myself," Dudek answered after the fifth game of the FWS. "Once you cross the white lines it is just a game. Obviously you want to prove yourself but I just try stay calm in the box and do what I need to do and be myself out there."
Senior Parks Jordan has shown that he is more than capable of holding down first base, but the freshman showing he'll be tough to keep off the field. Dudek added a 2-for-5 outing, including a home run, to his fall resume on Saturday.
"Joe has been a great addition this year," sophomore Skye Bolt said. "[A] freshman coming in and playing with a lot of passion and a lot of confidence. You don't see that very often in a freshman. He is a great stick in the lineup and he knows the game and he is advanced for a freshman over there. I can't speak enough about him. He is going to help us out this year."
Dudek has a frame that easily could put on some additional muscle in the weight room before the season begins. He'll undoubtedly be a player for Diamond Heels fans to look out for in the spring.
The Ultimate Competitor
After the fifth straight win by the Navy team, Bolt was asked why his side had won all of the games so far: "Because Michael Russell and I are on that team." he said of his junior teammate with a laugh. "Seriously, apart from his performance, Michael Russell is the best competitor on our ball club. He is the guy that we all look up to in that regards. … A guy that gives 110 percent everyday whether it is batting practice, BP in the cage, rainout -- whatever the scenario is the guy loves the game and he is out here every day. You cannot help but be influenced and encouraged by that in the dugout."
Despite all of the discussion that every position is open for competition, you can pencil in Russell at shortstop for the Tar Heels this spring. He won – and held – the job last season with strong defensive play and steady production at the plate while stealing 18 bases in 20 attempts.
Return To Form
Last season Bolt was playing at an extremely high level before a broken bone in his foot sidetracked him for about a third of the season. After he returned to action, he never did appear 100 percent. However, this fall Bolt is looking confident at the plate, on the bases, and also in the field.
"I feel great, "Bolt said. "The foot is not a problem. The bone is healed and it has not been a problem for a while now. Physically I'm getting back into shape and getting stronger. My weight is getting back up there. Physically in the game I feel better and once we get done with the fall our whole team effort is getting everybody back and into shape and putting on some weight and strength."
Bolt was a late addition to the USA Baseball team this summer, but saw sporadic playing time as a reserve while the team toured across the country and into the Far East.
Bolt is showcasing his five-tool talents this fall and the mindset to fully utilize them. "The game is going to continue to slow down for me and the more repetitions that I get in the cages it is slowing the ball down and I'm becoming stronger and more confident at each side of the plate and that is going to do that for me," he affirmed. "On the base paths the same way. Just slowing the game down and I'm looking to steal some more bags this year with the addition of 20 healthy games. That will definitely be part of my game that I look to implement a little more."
Bolt returning to form will be an essential part in the Diamond Heels making up for the offense lost with the departures of Colin Moran, Cody Stubbs and Brian Holberton to the professional ranks.
Freshmen Contributors Coming Into Focus
Every Fall World Series is a springboard for the new players to showcase their talents and makeup to the coaching staff. Fans naturally gravitate towards projecting the future starters for the spring.
With the fall scrimmages being closed to the media and the general public, what happened before the FWS gives the players a more direct picture of how the pecking order is shaping up.
Bolt provided more clarity on some of the races across the diamond when asked about the freshmen who have impressed him in the fall, "Wood Myers, second baseman," he stated first in his list. "He is going to play a little bit for us and will help contribute."
In the five games of the Fall World Series so far, all of the candidates at second have looked comfortable in the field and none have particularly impressed either at the plate or on the bases. However, the consensus from the returning players is the Myers is going to be a factor at second.
The outfield lost significant pieces with the departues of Chaz Frank and Brian Holberton. Bolt mentioned another freshman among the position players that impressed him, "Tyler Ramirez, a great stick in the lineup as well. He has been barreling up the ball a lot this fall."
In what may be viewed as a bit of a surprise, a freshman is making a lot of noise at catcher. "It is a no-brainer," Bolt stated. "It's Adrian Chacon. [He's got a] lot of potential back there. It's a guy back there that will make a big impact, not just for the next three years but later on down the road. The only problem for him right now is too much potential. It is all there. It has to come out. Up there with Dudek. An outstanding stick and two great hitters."
Chacon has showed off this potential with the absence of senior backstop Matt Roberts, who missed the last three games due to a death in the family. With the addition of Mark Fleury to the staff it appears, it appears the former Tar Heel catcher will have a fun prospect on his hands.