MORAGA, Calif. — Depth has been a recurring theme for each of the Saint Mary’s baseball’s position areas heading into the 2017 season, and the Gaels’ infield continues that trend.
The Gaels return three of four positional starters around the dirt and easily go two, if not three deep at every spot. The infield also features offense, headlined by preseason All-American Zach Kirtley. Kirtley begins the 2017 season on the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list, the All-West Coast Conference preseason team and preseason All-American teams from Perfect Game and D1Baseball.com.
“I think you always want to be good up the middle, and I think we are,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Eric Valenzuela. “When you say up the middle you mean good catcher, good middle guys with shortstop and second base, and good center fielder, and I think we’re good there.”
Saint Mary’s returns sophomore Conor Thane and his talented glove at shortstop. Thane earned the starting job at the start of conference play last season and ended up playing in 50 of 58 games with 35 starts as a true freshman. He is backed up by junior Austin Piscotty, who also flashes a powerful glove. Utility man Charles Zaloumis is also back for his sophomore year. He’ll fill now-departed Anthony Villa’s shoes at third base, a spot Villa filled for more than 200 starts over four years. But Zaloumis is not without experience. He played shortstop for the Gaels in the NCAA Regional last June.
“We’re good and experienced up the middle with Conor Thane and Zach Kirtley, but we do have some question marks on the corners. Replacing Anthony Villa is going to be big. He was really good at routine plays at third base and we can’t take that for granted.”
First base is wide open for the Gaels. Junior Logan Steinberg made 11 starts at first base last year, including each of the first six games. Austin Chauvin was an all-star over the summer in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, hitting .340 after missing most of last season with injuries. Freshmen Joe Vranesh and Ryan Novis are also getting looks at first because of the value of having their bats in the order.
The Gaels’ roster features flexibility. Kirtley is capable of shifting to third base if needed, opening up second for Zaloumis or even Edward Haus, who played second base during the fall. Outfielder Brett Rasso was originally an infielder by trade. Freshman right-handed pitcher Kevin Milam figures to not only be a closer and hit in the designated hitter spot, but could also see time at first base.
The Gaels’ 2017 season begins Friday in Las Vegas. The home schedule opens on Feb. 23 against Pac-12 Conference member and 2016 NCAA Regional participant Washington. Season tickets, single-game and group tickets are available for purchase on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.
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