HOUSTON — The 2013 Houston Baseball infield will be highlighted by a vast number of newcomers, including several top junior college players from around the nation and several talented Texas high school products for third-year head coach Todd Whitting.
The mix of experienced junior college players and freshmen will provide needed depth to both the defensive and offensive side of Houston Baseball’s game.
“We are much more athletic on the infield and I’m real happy with the players we did bring in,” Whitting said. “They play hard and are good ‘ole fashion, throwback ballplayers who aren’t afraid to get dirty and get their work in. The infield has been a point of emphasis for our staff from day one and through the fall and I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress this spring.”
The middle infield will be made up of a talented duo that can play both the shortstop and second base position for Whitting. They both bring energy, speed and versatility that will ultimately spearhead the Houston defense.
“Frankie [Ratcliff] has nailed down the shortstop position. He has done a great job and is steady out there for us,” Whitting said. “Josh [Vidales] has played really well at second base this off-season. Both of those guys have a lot of range up the middle and have the ability to be one of the top middle infield pairs in the country.”
SECOND BASE Josh Vidales | Freshman | LaPorte, Texas | LaPorte HS · Helped LaPorte HS to two District Championships · Named First Team All-District and Player of the Year at shortstop his senior season · Earned the Silver Glove Award and Distinguished Athlete Award by the US Marine Corps in 2012 · Named Second Team All-District and All-Region, while earning Golden Glove honors his junior season · Named Rookie of the Year freshman year
SHORTSTOP Frankie Ratcliff | Junior Transfer | Key West, Fla. | Pensacola JC · Played one season at Pensacola Junior College · Led the state in walks, RBI, doubles, triples, homeruns and average before suffering a broken hand · Played one year at the University of Miami under head coach Jim Morris · Helped team to a Regional berth · Was a four-year letterwinner at Key West High School under Miguel Menendez · Helped team to four playoff appearances · Three-time Team MVP; three-time All-County honoree
Third Base will show some depth, as the Cougars look to junior transfer Chris Waylock and freshman Kyle Kirk as the go-to corner players this season.
“At third base, there is still competition going on with Chris [Waylock] and Kyle [Kirk]. Both of those guys have played really well,” Whitting said. “I have no problem putting either one of them out there on Opening Day. With Chris being a right-handed hitter and Kyle, a left-handed hitter, we do have a platoon situation there if they are both playing well.”
THIRD BASE Chris Waylock | Junior Transfer | Cary, Ill. | Iowa Western CC · Spent two seasons at Iowa Western Community College · Named 2011 Region Defensive Player of the Year · Helped team to back-to-back NJCAA World Series berths · Hit .312 with seven doubles, one triple and 22 runs batted in and 41 runs scored in 51 games as a freshman · Drafted in 43rd round of the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Cleveland Indians
Kyle Kirk | Freshman | Houston, Texas | St. Pius X HS · Led St. Pius X HS to two State Championships and four District titles · Was a three-time First Team All-State and First Team All-District honoree · Named to the Houston All-Area All-Star team twice and All-Tournament team in 2012 · Earned team’s Most Dedicated Player twice
“Casey [Grayson] is, what I consider, to be one of the best players on our team,” Whitting said. “Justin [Montemayor] has been the biggest surprise for us at this point in the year. With his ability to work around the bag at first and swing the bat, he appears to be an offensive threat and I look for him to contribute immediately this year.”
FIRST BASE Casey Grayson | Senior-1L | Cypress, Texas | Navarro JC · Appeared in 32 games at both first base and as the Cougars’ designated hitter · Was sidelined following the March 18 contest at Oklahoma St. due to injury · Recorded six multi-hit games; had a career-best four hits vs. Delaware (Feb. 18) · Belted a pinch-hit three-run homerun to force extra innings at Texas Tech (April 15) · Committed just two errors in 171 putouts and 19 assists · Had 10 straight games of reaching base safely to open the season
Justin Montemayor | Freshman | Austin, Texas | Anderson HS · Helped Anderson HS to three Bi-District Championship teams · Was a part of the 2012 District Championship team that went 23-7 record · Named to Top 50 Athletes in Central Texas by Austin American Statesman · Was named Anderson High School Male Athlete of the Year · Member of Team Texas 2012 · Was a two-time First Team All-District Championship · Honored on Academic All-State team in 2012
“Our depth in the infield varies from position to position; however each player we have is a quality Division I-caliber athlete,” Whitting said.
Stay tuned for the 2013 Houston Baseball Outfield Preview coming Thursday.
UP NEXT The Cougars will open their 2013 season officially at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 by hosting Northeastern University in a three-game series (Feb. 15-17) at Cougar Field. For more of the latest news and highlights, visit www.UHCougars.com.
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