Small Ball, Speed Leading CMU to Success
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.--It's not the year of the long ball for third-ranked Colorado Mesa.
It's not about launching 3-run homers or smacking triples off the outfield wall. Instead, it's the year of small ball, and the raw speed of this team has turned out to be one of its biggest strengths.
"It's a different brand of baseball for sure," senior catcher Erik Kozel said. "It really helps us to win ball games."
Manager Chris Hanks has put an emphasis on speed in recruiting, but this year's team might be one of the quickest.
The Mavs have already broken the program record for most stolen bases in a single season, and are currently ranked sixth in the country with 127 on the year.
"If used correctly, it's a weapon that can be with you on any given day," Hanks said. "They say speed doesn't generally have a bad day, and that's true."
Braden Box, the all-time stolen base leader in program history, knows first-hand that sometimes it's the smallest plays that can have the biggest outcome.
"The walk-off from second was pretty fun," Box said. "I've said it for about three years, I've always wanted to score from second on a passed ball. Kind of always been this closet joke. And then being able to do it as a walk-off style was awesome. We never want it to come down to that, but having the ability to do that is always a great thing."
During drag bunt drills on Thursday, Kozel finished with the fastest time from home to first at 3.46.
"Erik Kozel is the fastest catcher I've ever seen in my life," Hanks said.
"I hear about it a lot from other teams and other coaches," Kozel said. "Telling me that it's different seeing a catcher in the leadoff spot who can actually run. A lot of times a catcher is a big bulky guy, and I'm just a skinny fast guy."
It may not create the loud cheers quite like a grand slam, but that's not what it's all about.
It's about advancing the base runners. It's the selfless sacrifice bunt and the audacious stolen base.
And with the fifth-highest batting average in the nation, small ball seems to suite this team quite well.