As spring approaches, the Hurricanes baseball preview continues with a look at key contributors in the infield this coming season. While some of the outfielders may garner a lot of the attention because of their gaudy numbers at the plate, the guys manning the infield will play a pivotal role in the team’s success through their defensive contributions.
The Canes will have one of the best catchers behind the plate for them this year in junior Zack Collins. After being named ACC Freshman of the Year in 2014, Collins developed into an All-American catcher during his sophomore campaign. He was a staple defensively behind the plate, starting 66 of the team’s 67 games and rarely letting a wayward pitch get by him. He also excelled in the batter’s box, becoming one of the nations most feared hitters, exemplified by the fact that he drew more walks than any other player in the ACC.
The Canes relied partly on Collins to supply the power in their lineup, and he certainly responded to that challenge. He totaled 15 home runs and came in second in the ACC with a whopping 70 RBI. Collins will be looking to earn All-America honors again and fuel the Canes to a second straight College World Series in the coming months.
One of Collins’s counterparts, senior shortstop Brandon Lopez, will also be an integral component to the team’s infield this season. That’s once he gets back from his suspension that is, which could be for as long as six games. Lopez was suspended for “violating team rules.” Once he returns, Lopez will be called upon for the consistency and leadership that Miami fans have become accustomed to throughout his first three years in the lineup. Lopez, who has held the starting shortstop position for his entire career, will look to end his days in Miami on a high note.
However, it will be hard to top what he has already accomplished during his tenure. In his junior season, Lopez stood out as one of the best defensive shortstops in the nation, while also putting up impressive numbers at the plate. He hit .375 in ACC play, and he is always a threat to hit for extra bases when he steps into the batter’s box. Lopez also performed well in big games, including a 3-for-3 performance in the College World Series against Florida including two doubles.
While both of these upperclassmen have bright futures ahead of them at the professional level, their current focus will be on leading Miami back to Omaha. Don’t be surprised if they do that and rack up a few individual accolades along the way.
The Canes kick their season off against Rutgers at 7 p.m. on Friday at Mark Light Field.
Click here to read about the Canes’ outfield.