Mesa State baseball team to test high batting average against Belmont Abbey

CARY, N.C. — Belmont Abbey (N.C.) College coach Kermit Smith was still celebrating his team’s first-ever NCAA Division II regional championship when he heard his team would play Mesa State College in the Division II World Series.

The 10th-ranked Crusaders (38-24) had barely finished walking off the field Sunday when Smith first heard they would play sixth-ranked Mesa State (43-13). The teams meet at 11 a.m. (MDT) today at the USA Baseball Training Complex.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team hit for that high of an average over that many games,” Smith said. “My recruiting coordinator came up to me about two hours after we won the regional and told me what their team batting average was. I wanted a regional championship to soak in a little bit more. We started thinking about it at that point and haven’t got it out of my head yet. We’re going to try something to get them out. Hopefully we can. It will be a challenge.”

The Mavericks, who are on pace to break the single-season team batting average school record, are leading the nation with a .383 average.

Mesa State has always been one of the best hitting teams in the nation in recent years, but the Mavericks have become better at playing ‘small ball,’ including hitting and running and bunting.

“We haven’t built our club on being a home run club,” Hanks said. “That’s not the case anymore.

Preparing in that regard is very simple. You have a little flatter, line-drive-type swing. It does not carry the way it does at home. At our place, it will fly on some days. It’s not going to fly the same way down here and we understand that. You’re facing a level of pitching you’ll see from all the clubs here. We expect close, low scoring games.”

The Mesa State players have discovered home runs will be tough to come by this week at sea level in a high humidity climate.

“I played two summers out here on the East Coast so I knew it would be a factor,” Mesa State senior Mike Provencher said. “If we stay with the same approach, we’ve been taking, hitting line drives and ground balls that will help us in the long run.

“Skip’s talked about it, take a line drive approach and a home run (might) happen. I’m sure some will come.”

“The ball doesn’t travel as far obviously at sea level,” Corey Todhunter said. “We’ll have to work on hitting line drives and hard ground balls. We can’t rely on the big home run. We’ve got to play small ball.”

The Mavericks are sixth in the nation in sacrifice bunts (58), fourth in sacrifice flies (41) and eighth in reaching base on walks (273).

They are led by Daktronics All-Americans Matt Bodenchuk and Kevin Becker. Bodenchuk made the first team and Becker made the second team.


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