Jan. 23, 2004
Each week before the start of the baseball season, GoLobos.com will provide an in-depth look at the different aspects of this year's team, including pitching, catching, infield, outfield, schedule and overall outlook. This week, the Lobo infielders are previewed. The Lobos began practice on Saturday, Jan. 17 in preparation for their home opener at Isotopes Park Feb. 20.
The infield is a tale of two stories for the Lobos. Up the middle, UNM fields experience with two-year starter Josh Mader at shortstop and returning starter Ryan Barba at second base. On the corners, however, the Lobos will platoon several newcomers to see who fits in what position by the start of the conference season.
Mader, a first-team all-conference selection in 2003, will move to his natural position of shortstop after starting two years at third base. The Albuquerque native honed his skills by playing shortstop all last summer in the Alaska League. A lifetime .371 hitter, Mader cracked seven homers with 16 doubles and 47 RBI last season in addition to stealing 10 bases and scoring 55 runs. He ranked in the top 10 for the MWC in triples (five - T3rd), hits (86 - T6th) and total bases (133 - T10th).
"Josh played two years at third, but now it's his time to shine at shortstop," Alday said. "He has great speed and can cover a lot of ground. He's a great athlete - he can catch, throw and run. The scary thing is that he has the potential to hit even better than the past two seasons if he's a little more selective at the plate."
Barba is a sophomore who started 18 of the Lobos' last 21 games at second base. He filled in nicely late in the year, batting .366 with six doubles and 17 runs in only 93 at-bats.
"Ryan really swung the bat well for us last season and became a solid defensive player as well," said Alday. "He will probably play every game along with Mader."
The corners aren't so set in stone. Freshmen Tim Grady and Daniel Stovall will split time at third base as well as first base. Other candidates for first base include freshman Josh Cordova, freshman Brandon Bingham, senior Josh Jezek, and possibly senior right fielder Sean Murray if necessary. Freshmen Matt Foote, Chad Itokazu and Jay Russell could also see time in the infield.
"We have players that can play in multiple positions, we just have to find the right combination," Alday said. "We're going to rotate them around and we'll have plenty of options. The big thing is that we need to bring the freshmen around slowly and not rush them. Once conference play begins, we'll have a good set lineup."