After tying a school record with 12 home runs this past season, rising senior catcher Will Davis is taking a different approach at the plate this summer.
“[I’m] actually try[ing] to do a little bit of the opposite of what I did at school,” he said. “So less getting under balls and trying to pull home runs and more swinging with the hands, more contact swing.”
And though a different approach may seem unnecessary given his recent success, Davis’ hitting adjustment makes much more sense once you consider the differences between summer league ball and the regular season.
The biggest, and most obvious, difference is the use of wooden bats in summer league play.
“[With] aluminum, I have a tendency to try to muscle up on pitches and over-swing,” Davis explained. “With wood, you really can’t do that because the bat is a little bit heavier. So you have to be more disciplined in your approach, more disciplined in your swing.”
Though Davis hit a respectable .281 for the Quakers this past season, the Atlanta, Ga., native is off to a tremendous start for his summer league team, the Alexandria (Va.) Aces. Through the team’s first sixteen games, he is hitting .373 with five doubles, a triple and a home run thanks to his adjustments at the plate. About a week ago, he received co-Player of the Week honors in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League.
Davis’ improved average can’t be credited to lower-quality pitching. In fact, he said that in the Ripken League, the talent of the pitchers is better “as far as velocity” goes than that of the Ivy League. Nevertheless, he also highlighted another important caveat that he thinks has helped him hit for better average.
“A lot of guys try ... [to] overpower you with the fastball, so they think they can throw it by you,” Davis said. “And if you get your foot down and your timing set, you can usually put a good swing on the ball [and] get a base hit.”
Rising junior pitcher Chris McNulty, Davis’ teammate with the Quakers and the Aces, provided the pitcher’s perspective.
“As a pitcher, your mentality has to be to throw the fastball and see if the hitter has adjusted [to the wooden bats],” McNulty said. “Because a lot of hitters with wood are just unable to swing the [heavier] bat and hit fastballs.”
Strategy aside, summer league baseball is less about adjusting to the differences in equipment and more about improving and staying sharp for the next collegiate season.
So while Davis works on hitting for contact, McNulty is looking to improve his performance on the mound.
“Something I struggled with at Penn is attacking the first hitter in the inning,” McNulty admitted, explaining that he gave up a number of walks and hits to leadoff hitters. “So that’s something I’m working on.”
Thus far, McNulty has pitched fairly well for the Aces. His last outing, on June 21, was his best of the summer — he pitched 2.1 innings, struck out two, gave up two hits and a run and earned a win for his efforts.
In addition to improving, summer leaguers can put themselves on the map in scouting circles with a strong performance. In fact, 31 Ripken Leaguers were selected in the MLB draft two weeks ago.
Yet none of these opportunities are available without a little bit of help from the coaching staff. Through various baseball connections, Penn head coach John Cole and his assistant coaches try to place the Quakers in various summer leagues throughout the country, attempting find a match based on talent and location.
Those connections have proven to be quite rewarding for some of the Quakers both on the field and off of it. Inspiring the envy of many, rising senior Miami native Adrian Lorenzo can be found gracing the summer league diamond in Hawaii this year.
Now that’s a perk to playing summer ball.
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