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2019 Position Preview: Catcher (Travis Hlavinka)

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Originally thought of as a question mark coming into 2018, Texas’ catching position became a bastion of strength over the course of the year. Senior DJ Petrinsky was the driving force behind the success after fighting off redshirt senior Michael McCann on his way to becoming one of the conference’s best full-time catching hitters and most lethal arms behind the plate.

After playing for two years at Hill College, Petrinsky arrived at Texas with an immediate chance to start. Known more for his bat than his defensive prowess, Petrinsky delivered with his consistency and his power. Over the course of 51 games, Petrinsky hit .257 and slugged .452,  tacking on nine home runs to go with his 29 RBI. Defensively, he progressed in a big way over the length of the season. He threw out 26 of 61 runners for just under 43%, and got more consistent with each and every game.

In 2019, he will be relied on as a star and will likely be a middle-of-the-order staple that should find himself closer to the clean-up spot than the seven hole he hit in last year. Head coach David Pierce even went as far as to say he could be the team’s best hitter.

“I’ve just been really proud of DJ Petrinsky,” Pierce said. “[Petrinsky] could potentially be our best hitter. And he has a calmness to him with this young staff and could be the MVP of this group because of his disposition and his demeanor.”

Backing up Petrinsky will be a familiar face in McCann, who has been relied on more for his leadership ability and his locker room presence than on-field play. That doesn’t mean he won’t get a shot at more playing time this year, though, especially with a position at first base being open after the graduation of Jake McKenzie — who dabbles more in oil and gas these days than he does PFPs and on-base percentages. Pierce said that McCann is no doubt an option to get some looks at first and mentioned his name along with a plethora of others that are vying for time at the position.

Beyond the two recognizable names are a pair of redshirt freshmen in Austin-native Jordan Landel and Houston-native Turner Gauntt, followed by lone true freshman Caston Peter. While none of these names may get a hefty amount of playing time in 2019, they will all have a chance to compete for the starting catcher position in 2020.

Just for fun if we were to look forward to the 2020 season, catcher would be the most open position on the roster with six players who have little to zero experience collegiately vying for the spot.

The three recently signed catchers, Silas Ardoin, Cameron Constantine and Peyton Powell are all highly touted prospects who will have the opportunity to seize the position fresh out of high school. While Constantine may be the most athletic of the bunch, Ardoin would hold the slight favorite to take over if bets were placed today.

“[Ardoin] is a very polished catch-and-throw type catcher that really understands the positon,” Assistant coach Sean Allen said. “His father was a big-league catcher and you can tell [Ardoin] has grown up around the game. With his advanced approach to the game we look forward to getting [Ardoin] on campus.”

Barring a significant change, expect Petrinsky to see the field as the everyday catcher and thrive even more than he did in 2018. Not only will his defense likely see a significant improvement, there’s a great chance he could be a double-digit home run guy and possibly lead the team in RBI in 2019.

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