ORONO – Two veteran infielders will get a different view this season.
And the entire University of Maine baseball team wants a different view from the one it was subjected to a year ago.
As the ground balls and ping of the aluminum bats ring around the university’s field house, the Bears have begun preparing to atone for last year’s 19-24-1 season that was lowlighted by a betting scandal that resulted in the suspension of 13 players.
But that was then and this is now.
Todd Livingston, a shortstop by trade who has also played third and second, will be the starting second baseman and senior Shanan Knox, who had been a third baseman at Maine, will be the shortstop.
“I played shortstop in the Great Lakes League this past summer,” said Knox. “And I played there in high school. I feel very comfortable there.”
“I’m not worrying about my throwing,” added Knox. “My biggest adjustment will be the fact I’ll have more time to get to the ball. Third base is more of a reaction position.”
Livingston played a little second base last year in the wake of the suspensions, “but before that, I hadn’t played second base since high school.”
“The biggest adjustment for me will be turning the double play,” added Livingston. “I’ve got to get used to that. It’s a lot different than turning a double play at shortstop. But I feel more comfortable now than I did in the fall.”
Knox said he and Livingston are communicating constantly in practice to iron out all the details of the positions.
“They’re coming very well,” said 19th-year Maine coach John Winkin. “I always thought Todd’s best position was second base and that Shanan has better shortstop tools. They’ve looked very good in drills and I really like their quickness. They get good jumps and they’re going to give us more range than we’ve had in a while.”
Slick-fielding Gabe Duross will be back at first base and Winkin said that’s a positive development for Knox and Livingston.
“They have a lot of confidence in Gabe. He gives them the freedom to let the ball go on their throws,” said Winkin.
Justin Tomberlin will be the third baseman when the hockey season ends. Wayne Conlan and freshman Mike Sidoti will fill in for the time being. Veteran Shawn Tobin returns behind the plate with Steve Puleo and freshman Ken Reed backing him up.
Sidoti and freshman Shiro Ando will be backup middle infielders.
Senior transfer and tri-captain Bill Champi will start in left with senior tri-captain Chad White in center and junior Glen Stupienski in right.
Puleo will be the DH.
The starting rotation will be comprised of senior tri-captain Ronnie Hewes, Jason Rajotte, Mark Ballard, and freshman Jim Hanning. Jason Dryswak, Frank Barresi, and freshmen Matt Cassidy and Steve Coombs will battle for the fifth and sixth spots and could also be used in long relief.
Dryswak and Ryan Smith are possible setup men and Dryswak could be a closer. The top closers are Lance Bogardus, who has recovered from minor arm surgery, and transfer Bill Allen (Western Carolina).
LeRoy Decker, Sean Cheetham, Doug McEwen, Val Beaudet, and Kyle Kennison are also in the battle for relief roles.