Friday, April 8, 2011

Former NAV Chad Zurcher Leads Nation in Hitting

FORMER NAV CHAD ZURCHER LEADS NATION IN HITTING: Memphis: About seven weeks into the college baseball season, Chad Zurcher was aware of his torrid start. His line drives to the outfield were finding the gaps. His sharply hit ground balls were eluding the gloves of diving infielders. His flares were dropping in front of fast-charging outfielders. What Zurcher didn't realize as the base hits accumulated like a teenager's cellphone minutes was how torrid his start was. When Zurcher steps to the plate tonight at AutoZone Park against Ole Miss, it will be as the nation's leading hitter. A junior shortstop for the University of Memphis baseball team, Zurcher is hitting .505, or 19 percentage points better than Tanner Waite of New Mexico State. He leads Conference USA by more than 100 percentage points, an amazing separation between the top two hitters nearly two months into the season. ''I know it's a cliché,'' said hitting coach Jerry Zulli, ''but the kid shows up every day. And he goes hard. But his mindset is simple. He never tries to do too much.'' Zulli said Zurcher is being rewarded for his strong work ethic, but, as with any streak, there is also some good fortune involved. ''He's getting a lot of breaks,'' Zulli said. ''Things are going his way. But what he's doing is nothing that shocks us.'' Zurcher, a native of Knoxville, said he was on the Baseball America website last week when a question posed during a live online chat asked which player led the NCAA in hitting. Zurcher said he was surprised when the response was a U of M shortstop. ''I knew I had a good average, but I didn't know where it was actually,'' Zurcher said. ''When I found out, I just went, 'Wow.' There are so many other (good players) who play college baseball. It's been fun.'' Zurcher has had two or more hits in 17 of the UofM's 27 games. He went 3-for-4 in Sunday's 13-5 win over Alcorn State and is 47-for-93 for the season, with 10 doubles and two triples. He has struck out only three times in 122 plate appearances and ranks among the top 10 toughest to fan in college baseball. ''His approach is to stay to the middle of the field,'' Zulli said. ''That's where 90 percent of your hits come from.'' Tigers coach Daron Schoenrock said Zurcher has benefited from hitting second in the lineup behind Drew Martinez, who flirted with a .400 average a year ago and was a 23rd-round pick of the New York Mets last summer. ''I can't tell you honestly that when we signed him we expected him to hit (.500),'' Schoenrock said. ''But we knew we were getting a solid kid.'' Zurcher has gradually boosted his average through the years, from .267 as a 135-pound freshman to his .500-plus average as a 170-pound fourth-year junior. Zurcher's second season was curtailed by a shoulder injury and he was granted a medical redshirt. That shortened sophomore season saw Zurcher hit .297 in 16 games and was followed by a .400 season last spring and a spot on all-C-USA's second team. Zurcher became only the sixth player in school history to bat at least .400 for a season. ''I had a good year last year and remember thinking, 'I hit .400, that's great, if I could do that again it would be awesome.' Now I'm sitting above it," Zurcher said. The feat comes in a year in which the power of the sport's aluminum bats has been reduced. A new NCAA bat-performance standard was enacted this spring with the goal to have nonwood bats perform similarly to wood bats. The college baseball rules committee sought to reduce the "trampoline effect" of the bats. ''I didn't think it would take much away from me because I'm not a home run hitter,'' Zurcher said. Schoenrock said Zurcher is helped by the fact ''he doesn't hit a lot of fly balls.'' ''Guys who hit fly balls with these new bats?'' Schoenrock said. ''That's death.'' Zurcher hit six home runs last season and has yet to hit one this year. So while the new bats may limit his power, he doesn't expect them to affect his ability to hit for an average. ''There are times you hit a ball good and realize the (result) would have been different last year,'' Zurcher said. ''But the feel of it? There's no difference. You just go up and it's like swinging any other bat. You're just trying to square every pitch up.'' Nation's top hitters 1. Chad Zurcher, Memphis, .505 2. Tanner Waite, New Mexico State, .486 3. C.J. Cron, Utah, .476 4. Matt Gedman, UMass, .466 5. Tyler Jones, Long Island, .444

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

McGibbon's Walk Off Leads Clemson over Coastal Carolina



OU's Kindle Ladd is this week's Daily Item featured Navigator Player Profile...check it out at:


LYNN, MA (April 5, 2011) – The 2011 North Shore Navigators roster will feature seven returning players from last year’s team, seven New England natives, and five former Major League Baseball draft picks as the team gets set to defend its 2010 New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) title. But first, each student-athlete is currently at the midway point in their respective college seasons. Five pitchers from last year’s team will be returning in 2011, including two former NECBL All-Stars in sophomore Crayton Bare (Baylor) and junior Nolan Corr (Wheaton). The left-handed Bare has appeared in a team-high 12 games for the Bears and has held opponents to a .194 average. Corr, meanwhile, is 2-1 in three starts for the Lyons. The three other returning arms include lefties Kevin Kyle (Georgia Perimeter) and Michael Johnson (Dartmouth) and righthander Dan Patrick (Palm Beach State). Kyle, who last year pitched for Clemson as a freshman, is 4-1 in six starts with a 1.89 ERA. The sophomore leads the team with 36 strikeouts in 33.1 innings and has thrown one complete game. Meanwhile, Johnson is 2-0 with a team-best 1.42 ERA for the Big Green and Patrick leads the Panthers with 45 innings pitched. Two sophomore bats will also return to the team next summer in Cody Dent (Florida) and Dario Pizzano (Columbia). Dent, a shortstop, is the son of former MLB All-Star Bucky Dent and has appeared in 14 games for the No. 4 Gators. Meanwhile, Pizzano is hitting .400 in 21 games with two home runs and a team-leading 22 RBI. The Saugus native is fourth among Ivy Leaguers in both hitting and slugging (.613). The Navigators will also feature three players from No. 17 Clemson. Freshman Kevin Pohle is 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA in nine appearances, while fellow freshman Jon McGibbon is hitting .333 with a homer and eight RBI in 20 games. McGibbon was a 29th round pick of the Seattle Mariners in the 2010 MLB Draft. Freshman infielder Mike Dunster has a hit in his only at-bat for the Tigers. A pair of freshmen from Notre Dame will also be playing for the Navs this summer. Infielder Eric Jagielo is second on the team in hitting (.302), homers (2) and RBI (14) and leads the Fighting Irish with 17 runs in 26 games. Teammate Dan Slania has 1.76 ERA in a team-high 13 appearances and has walked just one in 15.1 innings. Both were selected in the 2010 MLB Draft, Jagielo in the 50th round by the Chicago Cubs and the 6-4 Slania in the 42nd round by the Boston Red Sox. The Navs also boast two players out of Point Loma Nazarene University (CA). Junior outfielder Shain Stoner is hitting .312 and is currently tied for the team-lead with four homers. Righthander Garret Levsen, a 29th round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates last June, leads the team in games started (8) and innings pitched (51). Two Southern New Hampshire University players will too be representing the Navigators this summer. Infielder Matt Boulter is hitting .350 on the season and is second on the team with 18 RBI. Over his last seven games, the sophomore is hitting a torrid .581 (18-for-31) with a homer, 10 RBI and nine runs scored. Meanwhile, freshman righthander Junior Mendez is 1-1 with a 4.45 ERA in five games (four starts) for the Penmen. Outfielder Chad Taylor (South Florida) is hitting .272 and has 11 RBI in 26 games for the Bulls. He was a 13th round pick of the Chicago Cubs two years ago in the 2009 MLB Draft. Other key contributors this spring have included Danvers native Bobby Dean (Rhode Island), who has a 3.38 ERA in six appearances for the Rams, and Carter Watson (Tennessee), who is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 games (one start) for the Volunteers. The remaining players set to join the Navigators are Matt McGovern and Matt Alvarez (Boston College), Chase Harrison (Cypress), Drew Dahlberg and Kindle Ladd (Oklahoma), Saulyer Saxon (Oklahoma State), Jerry Elsing (Rutgers), Blake Berger (Tennessee), and Patrick Holleran (Tusculum).