Feb. 15, 2011
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – NCBWA Preseason Third Team All-American Victor Gomez anchors the 2011 Marshall University baseball lineup, which returns 12 position players from a season ago. Head coach Jeff Waggoner, in his fifth season with the Thundering Herd, is not shy about utilizing his bench. The 12 returners each saw game action in 30-or-more games in 2010. If you are in uniform, there is a strong chance that Waggoner will use you in some variety over the course of a game, series or season to give the Herd the best chance to win.
Returners (12): Isaac Ballou (So., OF), Alfredo Brito (Jr., INF), Nathan Gomez (So., 1B/OF), Victor Gomez (Sr., INF), Kris Hecktor (So., INF), Ben Jurevicius (Sr., OF), James Lavinskas (Sr., INF), Justin Maynard (Sr., OF), Thor Meeks (Jr., C), Eric Semeniuk (Jr., OF), Kenny Socorro (Jr., INF) and Rhett Stafford (Jr., OF).
Notes: V.Gomez is the all-time leader in homers (46), RBI (172) and total bases (414) at Marshall…Socorro has started 101 consecutive games…Lavinskas hit .342 in first season with the Herd.
Newcomers (4): Louie Helmburg (Fr., C), Victor Ramos (Sr., INF), Steven Ross (Jr., OF) and Gray Stafford (So., INF).
Notes: Helmburg threw out 32-of-39 base stealers as a junior at West Jessamine HS…Ross was a two-time all-conference outfielder at Maple Woods C.C.
Departures (4): Kurt Lipton (OF), Chris Norton (C/OF), Kirby Pellant (INF), Josh Valle (INF).
Notes: Lipton earned First Team All-C-USA honors and hit .375 as a senior…Valle played 1B, 2B, 3B and ranks first in MU history in walks (120) and third in hits (220).
Catchers: V.Gomez was an all-conference pick as the team’s primary backstop last season, but the Miami, Fla., native makes the move 90-feet away and will man first base for the Herd. Meeks split time behind the dish in 2010 and known for his incredible power at the plate. He has collected 18 homers through two seasons in Huntington, averaging a long ball once every 17.2 at bats for his career.
R.Stafford saw most of his time in the outfield as a sophomore, hitting .343 against conference pitchers. He will suit up in the tools of ignorance along with Helmburg to give the Herd a deep catching core.
Corner Infielders: First base will be guarded by V.Gomez, who has even more school records at Marshall in reach in his final season. He is closing in on the all-time best marks for hits, needing 22, and doubles, needing 10.
Spelling V.Gomez time at first will be younger brother N.Gomez, who will also play in the outfield, and fellow Miami, Fla., native Brito. In his first two seasons in Huntington, Brito has been an extremely useful player off the bench for Waggoner. In 26 career pinch-hit at bats, Brito has collected 13 hits for a .500 batting average and was an eye popping 8-for-12 in pinch hit duties last season.
The hot corner will be secured by JUCO transfer G. Stafford, younger brother of R. Stafford. He hit .320 at Spartanburg Methodist JC and is a solid defender at third base.
Middle Infielders: The combination of Lavinskas, Ramos and Socorro should hold down second base and shortstop for the Herd this season. Lavinskas makes the transition from third base to second, while both Ramos and Socorro can play either middle infield slot. Socorro started all 58 games at shortstop in 2010, while Ramos sat out last season. Known more for his bat, Lavinskas went 39-for-114 (.342 average) at the plate, but expect to see all three sharing game time this season.
Outfielders: An extremely athletic group with the combination of speed and power, the outfielders for the Herd should make an impact both offensively and defensively.
Leftfield will see either N. Gomez or R. Stafford at that position, depending on who is catching or picked as the designated hitter. In his first season at Marshall, N. Gomez hit an even .300 and finished second on the team in doubles with 13.
Ballou could have a breakout season in centerfield for the Herd. The sophomore hit just .230 his first season, but had an outstanding summer season for the Wilmar Stingers of the Northwoods League. The speedster stole just 12 bases last season, expect that number to climb.
In rightfield, Jurevicius is back for his senior season. He saw limited action to start the 2010 campaign, but got his chance once conference play rolled around and produced. He finished with a .389 batting average in league games and also has one of the strongest arms on the team.
Other outfielder possibilities for Waggoner include Maynard, Ross and Semeniuk. Maynard is regarding as the “super-sub” who will come in as a late defensive replacement or a pinch runner. The Huntington native appeared in 41 games in 2010, 31 of those as a substitution.
Designated Hitter: Expect to see Meeks see a majority of the at bats at the DH position, where he made 18 of his 38 starts as a sophomore. Others that could see playing time hitting for the pitcher include: Brito, N.Gomez and Ross.
Marshall opens the season in Charleston, S.C., with a game against Miami (Ohio) at the College of Charleston Invitational on Friday at 1 p.m.