The Official Home of Stephen F. Austin Athletics

    SFA Baseball 2012 Preview: Outfield
    Jackson Hood hit .301 with four homers and 27 RBI in 2011.
    Jackson Hood hit .301 with four homers and 27 RBI in 2011.

    Feb. 15, 2012

    NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Lumberjack baseball team put together a breakout season in 2012, winning a program record 37 games and coming up just one win shy of an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. This season the expectations are even higher with a veteran group poised to take the next step.

    SFA led the league in both pitching and fielding last season and return the core of its team, led by all-Southland Conference catcher Jarid Scarafiotti, starting pitcher Zack Taylor, closer Alex Moshier and sophomore shortstop Hunter Dozier.

    This is the fifth in a five-part series previewing the Lumberjacks, position by position, leading up to the 2012 opener against Portland on February 17 in Beaumont.

    INFIELD
    Returners:
    Jackson Hood, Chris Hernandez
    Newcomers: Rory Myers, Fola Lajide, Ricardo Sanchez

    In 2011 the Lumberjacks had one of the most dynamic and dangerous outfields in the Southland Conference, highlighted by SLC player of the year Bryson Myles and all-conference center fielders Garrett Smith. That pair occupied the first two spots in the SFA lineup throughout the season and finished as the top two players in hits on the roster.

    This season those spots are vacated with only senior Jackson Hood back as someone with more than a dozen starts in the outfield last year. Hood started 55 games in 2011 and was a pleasant surprise in the middle of the order, using a blue-collar approach to propel himself to a season in which he hit .301 with four homers, 27 RBI and 16 doubles. Unfortunately, he will not be in the lineup opening day for the 'Jacks after suffering an injury late in spring camp, but should he return later in the season he would undoubtedly bring a boost to the outfield corps.

    "Jackson was big for us, so having him out of the lineup early in the season is obviously a blow that we were not expecting to have to take," SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas said. "He provided some really clutch plays for us last season, so as long as he is out we are going to have to have some other guys step up to fill the void."

    Fortunately for SFA they have several options to fill in, including Chris Hernandez who made 15 starts last year and brings a potentially powerful bat to the lineup along with three years of collegiate experience. He had just 66 at-bats as a reserve in 2011, but hit a pair of home runs and slugged .424 in limited time on the field.

    Along with Hernandez, the `Jacks will likely fill time on the corners with utility men Zach Benson and Rene' Moreda, who each provide enough versatility to not only play on the infield, but step into an outfield role at a moment's notice, as well as newcomer Fola Lajide. A 6-1 transfer from McLennan Community College, Lajide was an all-conference player for the Highlanders and will likely see added playing time early on with Hood on the sideline.

    "We expect Chris (Hernandez) to step up this year," Cardenas said. "He doesn't have to be a middle-of-the-order guy, but he has to give us quality at-bats and defensively we feel like he's just as good as anyone that we have. Meanwhile, we have been very satisfied with what Fola has shown us and he is going to get a chance to prove himself early on in the season and hopefully he can take advantage of the opportunity."

    Aside from the corners, SFA will also have the task of filling the whole left in center field by Smith and will do so with junior Rory Myers who spent last season as a key part of Navarro College's run to a junior college national title. Originally a signee set to go to Texas State, Myers was a first team all-conference selection last season for the Bulldogs and will have big shoes to fill coming in to play center field after only two players - Smith and Zach Gardner - combined to start more than 95 percent of SFA's games over the last six seasons.

    "Rory has big shoes to fill, but we think he is ready for it," Cardenas said. "He's going to be a really important guy for us this season not only providing some speed for us at the top of the lineup, but also by bringing a left-handed bat to our order."

    2012 Season Preview Schedule:
    Feb. 3 - Catchers
    Feb. 6 - Starting Pitching
    Feb. 9 - Bullpen
    Feb. 13 - Infielders
    Feb. 15 - Outfielders

    -SFA-

      COMING SOON