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BASEBALL 2012: Mason Returns To Lead Eagles Outfielders

BASEBALL 2012: Mason Returns To Lead Eagles Outfielders

The biggest question marks for the Bridgewater baseball team as they prepare for the start of the 2012 season can be found in the outfield.

The Eagles need to find successors for leftfielder Kevin Kirk and centerfielder Brett Howell, both 2011 graduates.

There is however, no question about right-field where junior Johnny Mason, one of the top hitters in the ODAC, returns.

Mason put up big numbers a year ago when he hit .300 with five homers and 42 RBIs to earn first-team All-ODAC honors.

"Johnny is our leader," Bridgewater head coach Curt Kendall said. "He will hit in the 3-hole for us again. He had a very good season for us last year and we're expecting more of the same this season. The key for Johnny is to stay aggressive at the plate. If he does that, he is a very good Division III hitter. He's also a solid defensive outfielder."

The Eagles may have found their centerfielder for the next four seasons as freshman Darren Yoder will get the nod as the starter. "Darren runs well and he's got a good arm. He's a natural centerfielder. He will hit in the 9-hole, but we think he can be a leadoff type guy in the future." For the time being, Yoder will concentrate on his outfield duties, but in the future, Kendall may move him to the mound where he has shown potential with a live arm.

The left-field spot will be a platoon of three players – freshman Derik Walling, sophomore Nick Fulk and junior Christian Armstrong.

"Walling is a natural outfielder,' said Kendall. "He's a strong kid who swings the bat pretty well from the left side. Plus, he also runs pretty well. He's got a lot of potential." Walling will also back up Yoder in center.

Fulk, who saw limited action as a freshman, is a "gritty-type player," according to Kendall "Nick runs well and he's a kid that's going to play the game hard."

Armstrong saw limited duty last year in the outfield and should see some time there again when he is not on the mound. "Christian has improved as a hitter. He just needs to be consistent at the plate. He's a solid defensive outfielder."

Evan Smith, a big right-handed hitter with decent speed, is also working in the outfield and could see time there in the future.

Also, senior Devon Snow will see time in the outfield when he is getting a break from catching.

The designated hitter spot is up for grabs as Kendall has a variety of options at his disposal.

From the left side, Walling will get some at-bats as the DH and Armstrong is another possibility. If Kendall wants more speed, Cam Stevenson could be inserted as the DH.

From the right side, backup catcher Ryan Smith and Fulk are options along with freshman Theo Klopsis.

Joey Priftis, a switch-hitting freshman, provides another alternative in the DH role.

The Eagles open their season with a doubleheader Sunday at N.C. Wesleyan.