Reigning MAC West Division Champion Toledo Enters Unchartered Territory in 2013 ... Part Two
Each day the rest of this week, utrockets.com will feature a portion of the 2013 Toledo Baseball outlook. In this installment, the focus is Toledo's infield.
Toledo returns a plethora of talent in the infield in 2013. That is definitely a shot in the arm for Mee and his staff, as the Rockets must replace the school's all-time hit leader for a second-consecutive season. Gone is two-time All-MAC recipient Joe Corfman, as well as 2011 second-team all-league performer Mark Lapikas, but three starters return to make the infield a clear-cut strength in 2013.
Senior Matt Delewski (Maple Heights, OH) will handle the duties at first base for a third time in the last four seasons. The two-time All-MAC honoree batted .306 (53-for-173) with 16 runs scored, 11 doubles and 20 RBI in 44 starts at designated hitter last spring. Delewski hit safely in 37 contests, including 13 multi-hit efforts. The two-time Academic All-MAC selection was at his best during league play, batting a sizzling .340 (34-for-100) with a team-high nine two-base hits and 17 RBI.
"Matt is just a good baseball player," Mee said. "He is the kind of player coaches love because you know what you're going to get from him. You're going to get his maximum effort each day and really good at-bats every time which helps offensively with our approach."
Freshman Nate Pearson (Toledo, OH) will look to earn playing time at first base as well in 2013. A 2012 graduate of nearby St. John's Jesuit High School, Pearson batted .492 with 17 doubles, one home run and 28 RBI as a senior, earning first-team all-league, first-team all-city and first-team all-district accolades.
Junior Wes White (Canal Winchester, OH) will move from the hot corner to second base in 2013. White is coming off a sensational sophomore campaign which saw him hit a team-high .336 (37-for-110) with 10 runs scored, three doubles, two home runs and 16 RBI in 2012. He finished first on the team in batting average and on-base percentage (.431), as well as ranking third in slugging percentage (.418).
"Wes is one of those players that you can put at any of those infield positions," Mee said. "He is an invaluable resource to our team."
Across the diamond, sophomore Nate Langhals (Strongsville, OH) returns for his second season at shortstop this spring. Langhals took over the position midway through the 2012 season and started 31 games, hitting .217 (23-for-106) with 15 runs scored, one double, one triple and 12 RBI.
"Nate solidified our infield last year when we made the move to insert him at shortstop," Mee said. "He did a fantastic job of taking charge of the infield. One of the things he has worked hard improving has been his swing and it led to an increase of offensive production for him this fall. Hopefully, that's an indication of what we will see in the spring."
Also competing for playing time at second base and shortstop will be junior Zack Michael (Powell, OH) and freshman Deion Tansel (Grand Rapids, OH).
Michael scored five runs in 14 games in 2012.
Tansel batted .420 with 44 thefts as a senior at nearby Anthony Wayne High School. A speedster on the base paths, he totaled 80 stolen bases over his final three seasons with the Generals, garnering first-team all-state, league MVP, first-team all-conference and first-team all-district accolades last spring.
"We have a couple of different options in the middle infield," Mee said. "Zack made great improvement at the plate in the fall, which I was excited to see. He can play any infield position so he gives us great versatility. Then we have Deion who gives us a different dimension. He is an outstanding defensive player and an exciting offensive player. He is kind of a catalyst; he can hit, bunt, get on base and steal bases. He is the type of offensive player that will cause concern for opponents because he can hurt you so many ways."
Sophomore Anthony Smith (Hinkley, OH) is projected to be the starter at third base in 2013 after splitting time between the hot corner and left field last spring. Smith made 30 starts at third base and 21 in left field in 2012. He hit .265 (48-for-181) with 20 runs scored, 10 doubles, one home run and 18 RBI during his rookie season with the Rockets. Smith finished tied for second on the team in multi-hit efforts (14) and tied for fourth in multi-RBI games (6).
"Anthony has improved so much since last year," Mee said. "He has made himself into a really good third baseman. He is becoming much more consistent with his offensive approach. I think he has a chance to be a really good player."
2013 Toledo Baseball Outlook Part 3: Outfielders - Coming Thursday, Feb. 14
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