Mavs don’t have to rely on home runs to win games
The Mesa State College baseball team is off to its customary good start, but the Mavs are going about things a little differently.
The fourth-ranked Mavericks (17-4, 7-1 RMAC) are averaging 11.9 runs a game and are on pace to threaten the team single-season runs record of 659.
Mesa isn’t leaving many runners on base either.
“I think what helps our offense is our running game is good, our situational hitting game in terms of hit and run and our bunting is strong,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said.
“If you look, our home run production is down, but our average is up, which means we have more runners on base per inning. We’ve been trying for several years to get out of that ‘grip it and rip it’ mode, because at some time the home run will disappear on you. We want to be sure we can win without hitting home runs.
“The good thing is the power is there, but we’ve tried to take the emphasis off the home run. We have more ways we can beat good pitching and that’s the key.”
The Mavericks have hit 26 home runs so far, which Hanks says is lower than usual, but are hitting at a record .397 clip. Their single-season hitting average record is .374, set in 2004. Mesa has hit .374 or higher since the seventh game of the season.
Eight of the 10 Mesa players with at least 40 at-bats are hitting better than .374.
Matt Bodenchuk, who is tied for the team lead with eight home runs, is also leading the team with a .452 batting average. Mike Provencher, who also has eight home runs, is hitting .433 and Corey Todhunter is batting .389 with four home runs.
“Our power guys, with the exception of Corey, can steal a base or hit and run,” Hanks said.
“Mike and Bode are very good bunters, Corey can sacrifice bunt. If you look at other places, (Kevin) Becker is a tough out and can pop out of the park once in a while. (Andrew) Martinez hasn’t yet, but he can pop it out.
“There are guys that can hit it out, but we have more guys that can handle the bat and do a variety of things, which opens up the possibilities of ways to win ballgames.”
Mesa has gone eight games this season without a home run and has won half of those games.
“We were living or dying by the home run, which meant we struck out more,” Hanks said. “We’ve looked at ways we can manufacture runs other than waiting around for the three-run homer.”
Mesa hits plenty of home runs in the thin air of Colorado, but struggles at sea level or against good pitching.
“You win by putting the pressure on the defense by moving runners around with the bunting game and the situational hitting game,” Hanks said. “I don’t think, I know, that’s how you win.
“ You have to recruit the right personnel, you’ve got to have guys that can run and handle the bat. As long as I’m here, that’s the direction we’ll go. We’ll always try to insert some guys in the lineup with home run potential. Home runs are nice, but you don’t want to have to count on them.”