2012 Season Preview - Infield
Feb. 9, 2012
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Helping the Memphis defense to a program-best .977 fielding percentage last season, the infielders are previewed in the second installment of a three part 2012 season preview.
An everyday starter since his freshman season, senior Jacob Wilson mans the hot corner at third base. The 2012 Preseason All-Conference USA selection led all league third basemen a year ago with three errors in 152 chances. At the plate, Wilson was second on the club with 51 RBI in 2011. The Bartlett, Tenn., native led the squad with 11 stolen bases and was second on the team with six home runs. Wilson, who hit .286 in 2011, carries a 12-game hitting streak into the season opener on Feb. 17.
Taking over the shortstop position midway through the 2011 season, sophomore Ethan Gross is expected to be the everyday starter at the position. Gross split time between second base (25 starts) and shortstop (15 starts) in his freshman season and finished with seven errors. In the batter’s box, Gross hit .281 with 10 RBI and carries a team-best 13-game hit streak into opening day. The 13-game hit streak to end the 2011 season helped raised his average from .242 to .281.
Senior first baseman T.J. Rich rounds out the returning starters across the infield. Rich, a second team All-C-USA selection in 2011, led the club and was fourth among C-USA leaders with 52 RBI. Rich, who will also pitch this season, started all 57 games at first base a year ago and hit .299 with six homers and 10 doubles.
The Tigers have to the fill the void at second base left by NCAA Batting Champ Chad Zurcher’s departure. Sophomore Zach Willis will vie for the job after appearing in six games at second base. Willis appeared in a total of 21 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner, and hit .429 in his first collegiate season.
Adam McClain could also play second base, but the fifth-year senior is expected to see the majority of games in left field. Senior Eli Hynes has seen time at first base throughout the fall and early practices this spring, but he is expected to play the primary designated hitter or play in the outfield.
Freshman Tucker Tubbs is listed on the depth chart as an option to start at second base. Tubbs, a former Commercial Appeal Best of the Preps finalist, hit over .370 in his final two seasons at Collierville High School. At 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, Tubbs may also see time at third base throughout his time at the U of M.
Bryce Beeler is listed as an infielder on the roster and he has reps at all four spots across the infield in fall and early spring practices. Beeler, who hit .570 as a senior in high school, is most likely to see time at first or second base this season. Nate Rupiper adds additional depth at second and third base. Carter White (C/1B) and Zac Carter (OF/1B) add depth at the first base position as well.