Before the 2015 season began, head coach Greg Christodulu speculated his Shenendehowa baseball team might use a different batting order for each game.
That was a sign of confidence in the depth of his roster — as well as a tacit acknowledgement his lineup lacked proven stars.
That’s no longer true. After losing a variety of hitting studs from last year’s lineup — such as Justin Yurchak, now an everyday force in the middle of Wake Forest University’s lineup — the Plainsmen have pieced together a lineup potent enough to make the Shenendehowa show not all about its all-aces pitching staff.
“This year’s team is a different group of guys with different abilities than last year’s,” said Christodulu, going on to explain that this year’s Plainsmen are more of a work-the-count team than a mash-it-over-the-fence club.
“But where they’re similar is that someone in the lineup always comes through as the hero.”
This season, that someone has often been Connor Douglas, a senior outfielder. Douglas has been a fixture in the middle of the Plainsmen’s batting order and a major reason the Shenendehowa (13-0 Suburban Council, 14-2) has averaged 7.1 runs per game this season after a relatively slow start — and could clinch its league’s top record with a win today at Saratoga Springs (10-3, 13-3)
“He’s a great player and a great leader for us,” said Plainsmen junior Richard Drum. “There’s been some games this season where we’ve struggled to get things going offensively — and then he’ll step up.”
Often used as a designated hitter last season, Douglas hit .288 and played a supporting role for the Plainsmen in their run to the state championship game. This season, Douglas has become one of Section II’s top offensive threats with a mixture of speed and power. Douglas is hitting .481 with seven extra-base hits. The everyday nature of his offensive attack shows in his run production, too; in 16 games, he has 18 RBI and 18 runs scored.
“He has been perfect at being very consistent for us, day in and day out” said Christodulu, who regularly slots Douglas into his order’s No. 3 spot. “He’s grown as a player.”
That maturation started this past winter. Douglas said coaches discussed with him to make sure he kept things simple at the plate in his senior season, and he has listened. He looks for fastballs to hit, lays off off-speed offerings and uses all fields to do his damage.
“If you keep it simple, it becomes easy,” Douglas said.
Early in 2015, the Plainsmen needed Douglas to carry them. Shenendehowa averaged 4.4 runs per game through its first five contests before exploding for an average of 8.4 runs in its next 11 games.
“At the start of the season, everyone was trying to do a little too much,” said Douglas. “Now, we’ve learned from our mistakes. We’ve learned to each do our jobs. We’ve put it together and we get our runs.”
The Plainsmen often don’t need many runs. Shenendehowa’s top three starting pitchers — Ian Anderson, Nik Malachowski, and Bryan Warzek — have allowed a combined five earned runs this season.
“But we have to produce runs,” said Drum, who blasted his first varsity home run during a May 7 win against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. “If you score no runs, you cannot win.”
In Shenendehowa’s last eight games, the Plainsmen have scored at least five runs in all but one of them. During that span, Shenendehowa has twice splurged for double-digit runs. Those outputs have encouraged Christodulu, who said he still wants more from the Douglas-led attack.
“There’s still some growth left,” said Christodulu. “We’ve got some [untapped] potential still left.”
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Categories: High School Sports