by Eric Jones - Three names have been constant in whatever line-up Tim Corbin and his coaching staff have put together in 2009. Curt Casali, Steven Liddle and Jason Esposito have started all 59 games for the Commodores, making them the only three members of the team to achieve the feat this season. Last year, seniors Dominic de la Osa, Ryan Flaherty and David Macias played and started all 63 games.
Liddle has emerged as perhaps the team’s best all-around player finishing with a .354 batting average while leading the team in runs scored (61), walks (40), on-base percentage (.454) and slugging percentage (.590). In a year when nine other Commodores saw time in the outfield including infielders Joe Loftus, Alex McClure and super utilityman Andrew Giobbi, it was Liddle who became the one constant in the outfield and a run-producer in the line-up.
Curt Casali would not allow his season to be detoured by a torn elbow ligament, instead opting to push surgery to the off-season. It was a breakout season for the sophomore who started primarily at first base and became a primary power source for a team that hit just 50 home runs this year. In addition, Casali struck out just 21 times in 217 at bats to go with his team-best 56 RBI. Now he is hoping to delay off-season elbow surgery until after the College World Series. Famed sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews is scheduled to perform the ulnar ligament transplant surgery (aka Tommy John surgery) later this spring in hopes of preparing Casali for a return to catching.
“Getting to the SEC Tournament and trying to get into a Regional is why I elected to play this year,” said Casali who has been a major source of offense for the Commodores. “Playing first base has allowed me to really keep my focus in the game, but it’s a tough position. I have been a catcher all my life and it really gave me a different perspective, but in the end I just want to play.”
Jason Esposito, the lone freshman of the trio, had a tough act to follow when he signed as the replacement at third base for Pedro Alvarez. He has done nothing but shine at the hot corner with a bat that has shown glimpses of great things to come (.287-4HR-39RBI) while also leading the team in stolen bases swiping 20 of 24.
As the Commodores advance into NCAA Regional play, they will get greater exposure and more scouts will inevitably get a greater chance to see what Commodore fans already know. Of the three, only Steven Liddle is eligible for the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur draft in a few weeks. Either way, you win as a fan. You get to see another year in black and gold or you find a new major league team to root for.