Air Force Baseball Preview Day Five: Outfielders
Feb. 13, 2009
Air Force baseball opens its 2009 season on Friday, Feb. 20 against Navy and Kansas at the Service Academies Spring Classic at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn.
AirForceSports.com will preview the team with position-by-position breakdowns every day of the week of Feb. 9-13.
Monday Feb. 9 - Season Outlook/Schedule
"Our outfield has improved significantly this offseason in terms of defense," head coach Mike Hutcheon said. "Their ability to get to any ball hit in the air has been a sight to see in practices. This is one area that is much improved in our team and will help shorten the game with their ability to take away hits."
Sophomore Nathan Carter moves to right field after playing at second, center and left field as a freshman. Carter led the nation with 10 triples last year as a rookie, garnering third-team freshman All-American honors along the way. In addition, Carter led Air Force in several categories least year, including batting average (.312), runs scored (51), hits (58), walks (34), slugging (.570) and on-base percentage (.430).
"Nate is a tremendous athlete and one of the top young players in our conference," Hutcheon said. "He can affect the game so many ways with his hitting, base running ability and defensive presence in the outfield. It's just his second year in Div. I ball, but we expect him to continue to improve and be even better for us as a sophomore."
Center field duties will be handled by junior Daniel Walker. Another fleet-footed athlete, Walker ranked second in the nation last year, trailing teammate Carter, with .18 triples per game (seven in 39 games). Walker took over starting duties early as sophomore and batted .303, while scoring 18 runs and driving in 17. Hutcheon is enthusiastic about Walker's improved abilities to command center field.
"Danny has developed almost limitless range in center," Hutcheon said. "He has worked hard at being able to flag down any ball hit in the air. The ground that he and Nate can cover will be a significant advantage for our team. Danny's speed is something opposing teams will have to take notice of once he gets on base and that will only help our team as well."
Showing uncanny poise for a rookie, freshman Jack Lupo has emerged as the early favorite to start in left field. Lupo was the Indianapolis Star Player of the Year out of Indianapolis, Ind., last year and will bring his talents to the Falcon outfield and offense.
"Jack gives us another talented outfielder in left," Hutcheon said. "He has shown the ability to make all the routine plays in the outfield and we like his consistency. In addition, Jack has shown in practices, that his ready to hit at this level and we expect contributions out of him from the offensive side as well."
Also in the mix in the outfield are junior Tyler McBride, sophomore Tytus Moss and freshman Blair Kessler. McBride gives the Falcons a veteran presence in the outfield with 63 career games under his belt. Moss was timed as the team's fastest player in preseason workouts and will play a significant role in base running situations, in addition to time in the outfield. Kessler is a talented rookie from Texas that will also get a look early in the season. Hutcheon is pleased with the outfield depth and envisions McBride, Moss and Kessler contributing along the way.
"Tyler gives us a veteran presence in the outfield," Hutcheon said. "His experience will be an asset to the team throughout the season. Tytus enters his second year in the program with improvement all across the board. His speed is an asset we will utilize to our advantage. In Blair, we have a young player that played high school ball in Texas and has shown the ability to play at this level. Blair has shown some power during the off-season and will add some pop to the line-up. He will be an added asset to the program in the coming years."