CARROLLTON, Ga. - In continuing to look ahead to the season opener for the 2018 West Georgia baseball program, today uwgsports.com takes an inside look at the infield and the catchers that Skip Fite will put on the field this weekend at Augusta.
The Wolves and Jaguars will open the 2018 slate in a rematch of last year's opening weekend, with West Georgia heading east to the Augusta campus. The opener is set for Friday at 3 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on Saturday. First pitch for Saturday's games will be at noon, with the teams playing a nine-inning game first, followed by a seven-inning game.
"We have lost a lot in the last two years in the infield, but we have replaced those with quality players," Fite said. "Losing Caleb Lopes as a junior in the summer of 2016 to the Major League Baseball draft was a fantastic thing for him and our program, but it left us with a hole last year, then Artemis Kadkhodaian graduates and goes on to play in the minors and that is tough to simply bounce back from."
Tucker Bream and Brian Dansereau will hold down the starting spots at shortstop and second base, respectively, to open the season. The 2018 campaign marks the second on the team for Dansereau, but he was forced to sit out the 2017 season with an injury. In 2016, he hit .405 at Snead State and has been swinging the bat well in preseason. Breen will be a solid defensive shortstop for the Wolves and brings some power to the plate, as he had eight doubles, two triples and a home run at East Georgia Junior College last season. Behind those two is freshman Joseph Hill, who will likely get an opportunity to prove himself early in the season.
"We absolutely have two quality infielders up the middle in Tucker and Brian," Fite said. "And it is great that Joseph is performing so well in preseason practice, because it is going to give us solid depth at shortstop and second base."
On the Corners
At third base is the Wolves' leading hitter returning from 2017, as Ben Utley will likely be the regular at that spot. Utley has started more than 90 games in a West Georgia uniform after transferring from Georgia Perimeter, and led the team with a .332 batting average and a .460 slugging percentage. Hunter Stubbs will also see time at the hot corner after transferring this year from Southern Union in Alabama. Stubbs hit .341 as a sophomore last season with 20 runs scored and 11 stolen bases.
Logan Taylor has emerged this season as the likely starter at first base for the Wolves. The junior transfer from Marion Military is solid at the plate and has occasional power, according to Fite. Last season, he hit .386 with seven doubles, a triple, and six home runs. Also working at first base this season will be Price Peters and Logan Arnett. Peters was the top offensive threat and cleanup hitter until he was injured at midseason, and Arnett played multiple positions throughout the year in 2017.
Behind the Plate
Head coach Skip Fite points to "the battery" as one of the biggest differences in the 42-win season from 2016 and the 17-win season in 2017.
"Last year hit us pretty hard in terms of injuries, but no where was hit harder than with our pitchers and catchers," Fite said. "I am very excited about our depth at these two positions for 2018, and we will be in much better shape for this spring."
At the top of the class for catcher this spring is the return of Price Peters, who was the Wolves' regular cleanup hitter and catcher before a midseason injury in 2017. Despite playing in only 28 games last year, Peters had five home runs and he hit .277 with seven extra-base hits. Peters has fully recovered from the injury and Fite names him as one of the players who is having a fantastic preseason.
Behind Peters is Lane Griffith, who filled in for Peters in the starting role after the injury. Griffith started 16 games as a true freshman, hitting .231 with a home run and a double to his credit. The final piece of the puzzle behind the plate is Drew Hayles, who transferred from Central Alabama Community College for this year.
"Lane has continued to improve with the experience he got last year and has looked good in preseason workouts," Fite said. "With those three, we have have a trio of catchers who could start and give us a good chance to win."
The final preview of the 2018 baseball season will come tomorrow, as uwgsports.com will look at the outfielders for the coming year.