Jan. 30, 2007
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The third of a four-part series previewing the upcoming 2007 Navy baseball season focuses on its catchers and infielders. The final part of this year's preview series will focus on the outfielders (Feb. 5). Part I took a look at the starting pitchers on Jan. 18, while Part II viewed Navy's relief pitchers last week. Navy is scheduled to open up its 2007 season with a three-game set at Florida A&M on Feb. 9-11 in Tallahassee, Fla.
With the graduation of Second-Team All-Patriot League catcher Jonathan Johnston last year, the Midshipmen will be looking to some new faces to handle the catching duties in 2007.
Freshman Steven Soares aims to fill the position after a solid career at Taravella High School (Fla.). The five-time all-county selection earned team MVP honors during his senior season after he hit .450 with nine home runs. Soares also displayed his prowess behind the plate, as he was named the team's defensive player of the year in 2004.
"We really like the skills that Steven brings to the table," stated Kostacopoulos. "However, he was forced to miss all fall with a broken hand and haven't had much of an opportunity to work with him yet."
Competing with Soares for starting time at the catcher position is sophomore Joshua Martinez, who saw significant action as a designated hitter, catcher and third baseman last year. The product of Denver, Colo., led all Patriot League freshmen with a .311 batting average over 43 games, which included 29 starts. He belted six doubles, one home run and drove in 30 runs, 14 of which came during league play.
"Joshua had a solid freshman year despite being put into tough spots in the batting order," Kostacopoulos said. "He's a very aggressive hitter and does a good job of receiving and blocking the ball behind the plate. Like Steven (Soares), he missed the entire fall season with a broken hamate bone."
Sophomores Jordan Rash and Chris Donnelly did not see any action during their rookie seasons, but could be called upon and provide depth at the backstop position.
Player B AVG GP-GS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB-SBA
Chris Donnelly R Did Not Play
Joshua Martinez R .311 43-29 135 18 42 6 0 1 30 0-0
Jordan Rash R Did Not Play
Player B Hometown / High School
Steven Soares R Coral Springs, Fla. / Taravella
One of Navy's strongest areas defensively will come from its infield in 2007, as several members return from last season with the freshman class providing solid competition and emerging at several positions.
At first base, the Midshipmen are in a three-way contest for the starting job between sophomore Jack Ferrick, junior Thomas Hamilton and freshman Jonathan Berkowitz.
Ferrick saw action in 22 games as a freshman last year, batting .209 with two doubles, one home run and seven RBIs. The product of Stafford, Va., came through in the clutch scenarios, hitting .500 with a home run and six RBIs as a pinch-hitter and was over a .300-hitter with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. Defensively, Ferrick cleanly fielded 88 of his 89 chances for a .989 fielding percentage.
Hamilton started in 52 games between third base and first base last season, batting .290 with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 29 RBIs. The native of Houston, Texas, had a knack for providing the clutch hit in the late innings, as batted .500 after the seventh inning and drove in more than 70 percent of runners on third and less than two outs. After moving to first base during Patriot League play, he made only one error in 128 chances, good for a .992 fielding percentage.
In just his first season in Annapolis, Berkowitz will be contending for playing time at first base. The smooth-swinging left-handed hitter was a two-time preseason All-American at North Broward Preparatory School in Florida. Berkowitz posted a .363 career batting average with 21 home runs and 86 RBIs, including a .400 average with a county-best 12 round-trippers as a sophomore.
"There is solid competition between Jack, Thomas and Jonathan at first base," Kostacopoulos said. "Jack worked extremely hard and came through with some big hits last year. We are hoping for good things with him. Thomas did a nice job of holding up the order last year and came through in the clutch early in the year. He needs to take his experience and make it work. Jonathan, as a left-handed hitter, gives us some balance in the lineup. He has a nice, smooth swing and think he's going to be real good down the road."
Senior B.J. Bickel looks to hold down the starting job at second base in 2007 after providing solid glove work during his junior campaign. In 38 games, Bickel helped in turning 12 double plays, committed only three errors in 124 fielding opportunities and finished the season with 18-consecutive games without an error. At the plate, he batted .181 with two doubles, 13 RBIs and 11 runs scored.
"B.J. had a very good fall season," stated Kostacopoulos. "He does a good job defensively and makes the plays he can make. However, he needs to become more productive with his at bats, improve his on-base percentage and move runners ahead."
Working with Bickel on the opposite side of the second base bag will be freshman Kendall Bolt. The product of Stockton, Calif., caught the coaching staff's eyes with his performance during his short time in Annapolis. In addition to his efforts in the fall, he carries an impressive high school resume where he earned All-American honors. As a senior last season, Bolt batted .475 and helped Lincoln High School to a league championship.
"Kendall is a talented player who won the job in the fall with his solid defensive play," commented Kostacopoulos. "Being a freshman, he will have to make that key adjustment to collegiate baseball. However, we have a great deal of confidence in him."
Guarding the hot corner for the Midshipmen in 2007 will be senior team captain Michael Garcia. The native of Kailua, Hawai'i, surfaced as a starter in several infield positions last season and finished his junior campaign with a .323 batting average, featured by a team-best .383 mark during Patriot League play. He finished the year on a seven-game hitting streak, hitting at a .429 clip with four multi-hit efforts. Garcia also flashed some glove, helping in turning 14 double plays in 2006. In addition to starting at third, Garcia could slide over and start at second base or shortstop, depending on the matchups this season.
"Michael has emerged gradually over his four-year career," said Kostacopoulos. "He truly took advantage of his opportunities last season and started the final-half of the year. He's a dependable player that when you pencil his name in the lineup, you know you are going to get effort."
Freshman Matthew Curley could see some playing time at second base in the spring. Curley, a native of Boston, Mass., was an all-conference selection at Boston College High School, leading the team in fielding percentage despite playing in the middle infield.
Senior Dominic Lopez could fill in at shortstop, second or third base this season. Lopez helped turn 21 double plays during his 46 games in the 2006 campaign. At the plate, he hit .228 with five triples, 12 RBIs and seven stolen bases.
In addition to serving as a key short reliever this season, freshman JD Melton may get some action at third base. Primarily serving as a reserve infielder with Wofford (S.C.) College last year, he hit .197 with three doubles, one home run and four RBIs.
Competing for time at the hot corner with Garcia and Melton is freshman Drew Lydon. A product of Riverdale Baptist High School (Md.), Lydon batted .508 as a senior with 18 doubles, six home runs and 37 RBIs and earned preseason All-American honors prior to the start of his 2006 season.
Player B AVG GP-GS AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB-SBA
B.J. Bickel L .181 38-34 94 11 17 2 0 0 13 0-2
Jack Ferrick R .209 22-10 43 3 9 2 0 1 7 0-0
Thomas Hamilton R .290 52-52 186 26 54 10 2 2 29 5-6
Michael Garcia R .323 34-25 93 11 30 6 0 0 3 1-2
Dominic Lopez R .228 46-44 136 27 31 1 5 0 12 7-9
Player B Hometown / High School
Jonathan Berkowitz L Parkland, Fla. / North Broward Prep
Kendall Bolt R Stockton, Calif. / Lincoln
Matthew Curley R Boston, Mass. / Boston College
Drew Lydon R White Plains, Md. / Riverdale Baptist