The Stetson infield will not be an Abbott and Costello routine in 2013 but fans will certainly need a scorecard handy to learn who all the new faces are around the diamond.
Robert Crews and Mark Jones, who started a combined 440 games in their Stetson careers, will not be back in the lineup. Both graduated and moved on following the 2012 season and, along with the loss of two-year starter Ben Carhart at third base, the Hatters will be starting over in the infield.
"We are going to have a lot of new faces," Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. "We should probably put names on the back of all our uniforms, not just the road uniforms. We lost all of our infield to graduation. We will have freshmen at the corners and a pair of junior college players up the middle."
Even with that knowledge in hand, less than two weeks before the start of the season, none of the infield spots is set in stone. The only known fact is that either sophomore Tyler Bocock or junior K'shawn Smith will be the starter at shortstop and the other will be the starter at second base.
"Those two guys are battling it out for those two positions," Dunn said. "Both of them are shortstops by trade. We're going to have to make a decision. It's probably not going to come down to who is better at shortstop, but to who is better at second base. There is no doubt that both of them are Division I shortstops."
With stiff competition between the two, both will have to understand that they will have to do what is best for the team in the long run.
"I'm sure they both care because they both want to play shortstop, but they'll do whatever is best for the team," Dunn said. "I think they'll accept whatever comes forward and run with it. They work well together and they like each other."
In terms of a depth chart, Smith or Bocock, whoever winds up at second base, will be the backup at shortstop. The backup at second base will depend on who winds up as the starter at third base.
Freshmen Carlos Garmendia from Miami and Kevin Fagan from Boca Raton are the prime candidates at third. The plan is for Garmendia to be the primary starter there, but Fagan is pushing for playing time and is almost to the point as an offensive player where he is going to have to be in the lineup on a daily basis.
"We got spoiled over the last two years having Ben Carhart down there at third every game," Dunn said. "Garmendia is another guy who has been a shortstop and is having to learn a new position. He's got the tools and the ability, but we're putting him in a position where he's having to learn on the fly."
Both Garmendia (shortstop) and Fagan (second base) will serve as the backups at other infield positions, as will sophomore Kyle Pitts. Fagan could also end up in the outfield, in either left or center.
"We just don't know yet where Fagan is going to fit best," Dunn said. "He's going to hit and he runs the bases real well."
Plus Fagan gives the Hatters something extra. He is also a pitcher who might end up being the solution at the back end of the bullpen.
First base has more options available, including three returning players who have played the position in the past. Freshman Patrick Mazeika is the guy the Hatters' coaches expect to play the position every day, with another freshman, Konner Lutz, possibly seeing playing time.
Two returnees could also see playing time at first. Senior outfielder Mitchel Brennan saw some action there last year and handled it well, and sophomore Darby McCormick is a utility type of player who could play some at first, second or in the outfield, as well as at DH.
The wildcard at first is senior pitcher Kurt Schluter. In addition to being the best defensive player among the first base candidates, he is also the most experienced at the position. He played a considerable amount there as a freshman in 2010 and made 13 start there last year.
"I think Mazeika is the guy from an offensive standpoint because he could be a special offensive player," Dunn said. "He has a good feel for the game and he's pretty athletic, but he has never played first base before. We moved him there in the fall and he showed he has a good feel for it."
If Mazeika can handle things defensively, that will allow the Hatters to protect Schluter, who will again be the Friday night starter.
"We have committed to Kurt that, unless something really funky were to occur with injuries, we want to keep him out of harm's way as much as possible," Dunn said. "Last year we put him out there and he wound up getting hurt. Even though he is our best defensive player at first, we need to resist putting him out there."
Having Brennan and McCormick available should help alleviate the need for Schluter to grab his first base mitt.
Season tickets for Stetson baseball are still available for as little as $75, which includes all of the games in the Bright House Tournament as well as 35 more home games through the regular season. Call 386-738-HATS or visit GoHatters.com for more information on season or single game tickets for all Stetson University Athletics events.
(Editor's Note: This is part three of a preseason preview of the 2013 Stetson baseball team. Tomorrow gohatters.com will preview the Hatters' outfield.)