Bulls bring back experienced infield
Last year, the Bulls finished second in fielding percentage in the Mid-American Conference. This year, they look to improve on that statistic with an experienced infield.
All four starters played in at least 30 games last season and all are upperclassmen. With two of the infielders doubling as part of the pitching rotation, the infield shuffles around a bit, but the players are comfortable with the movement.
Alex Baldock, Senior, 1B: Baldock played in just 31 games last season due to injuries, but he was one of the team's best offensive players. He batted .284 with a .488 slugging percentage and nearly half of his 31 hits on the season were extra-base hits (13).
Baldock finished off his season with an elite performance in the MAC Tournament, helping the Bulls get their first-ever MAC Tournament win. He was selected to the MAC All-Tournament team after batting .375 and driving in sevens runs in just four games.
"Our first goal is to make it back to the MAC Tournament," Baldock said. "After what you saw from Kent State last year, anything is possible. If we get there and are playing hot like we were last year, we're going to try to make it through and win that tournament. Until then, just getting there is our main goal and not make it as stressful to get there."
Baldock is especially confident with the assurance of this year's infield.
"We'll be golden with that," he said. "Whoever's in there, we're going to be confident turning plays up the middle."
Jon Mestas, Senior, 2B: Mestas started 53 games for the Bulls at second base last season, in his first year in the starting role with the team. Mestas struggled at the plate, only batting .266, but he was sure-handed defensively. His .948 fielding percentage was better than any other infielder who played in at least 40 games (excluding first base).
Mestas hopes the infield's gritty defense can produce more wins for the team.
"We pretty much have all of our guys coming back this year," Mestas said. "We were No. 2 last year in the MAC in fielding, so we've been working hard all fall so we can maybe finish in the top five or top three in the MAC."
He also noted it was a good offseason, especially for his hitting. "It's gotten a lot better," Mestas said.
Mike Burke, Junior, SS/RHP: Burke started 44 games at shortstop and became one of the team's best starting pitchers, earning a 4.28 ERA at the mound. He was above average at the plate, finishing the season batting .290 and had more RBI's (25) than any other infielder (excluding first base).
Burke touched on his offensive output, as he is looking to become more of a power hitter.
"I want to hit a few more home runs, get the power up this year," Burke said. "I hit four last year and I want to double it. That's my goal."
Michael Scarcello, Junior, SS/3B: After starting in just 34 games and making 42 appearances, Scarcello finished third on the team in batting (.323) for players who played in at least 30 games, a major improvement from his .211 average as a freshman.
Scarcello will be rotating between shortstop and third base, depending on who's pitching that day, and he is looking forward to the opportunity to get more at-bats.
"Last year was great experience and really helped my confidence, so I'm really looking forward to this year and getting similar results [at the plate]," Scarcello said.
River McWilliams, Senior, RHP/3B: McWilliams appeared in 18 games on the mound and finished the season with the lowest ERA on the team (.361).
He also started 31 games for the Bulls at third base and played extremely well offensively and defensively, batting .293 and finishing with a .957 fielding percentage.
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