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On Campus: Taking A Disciplined Approach



In the first two years of his college career, Boomer White was a key member of Texas Christian’s lineup. He started every game as a sophomore and led the team with 84 hits, helping the Horned Frogs reach the 2014 College World Series. But after that season, White decided to transfer to Texas A&M. Transferring means sitting out a season, which for a hitter means not seeing live pitching for an extended period of time. White made his return to game action last summer with Falmouth in the Cape Cod League, but struggled, hitting .212/.264/.241. Some of those struggles at the plate followed him back to College Station in the fall, when he found himself striking out more than he was accustomed to. White spent a lot of time in the batting cage over the winter to get ready for the sesaon and has come out swinging a hot bat this season. The third baseman is hitting .453/.532/.547 in 13 games for No. 2 Texas A&M. "It took me a lot longer to get back into the groove,” White said. "I always thought I was a guy who could get out of bed and put the barrel on the ball. It’s really relieving, really exciting the way I’m playing now, and it’s helped the team on the offensive side.” White’s hard work has paid off and he is once again back to his high-contact approach at the plate. He hasn’t struck out in 53 at-bats, making him the toughest player in the country to strike out in the first three weeks of the season. Through Wednesday, 12 players who had recorded at least 30 at bats had yet to strike out this season. Even in an era where strikeouts are more accepted in the major leagues and the college ranks, a space remains in the game for players such as White, who make a lot of contact and minimize their strikeout totals. White said when he ran into problems this summer and fall, it was because he was getting away from his natural approach of staying compact and looking to make consistent contact. "I’ve always been a guy who put the ball in play a lot and could find the barrel,” White said. "I was getting away from that and getting big. If you hit the ball hard, good things will happen for you. Right now, things are going great but I attribute that to staying in the middle of the field.”
Disciplined Approach At the heart of No. 10 Virginia’s lineup are catcher Matt Thaiss and first baseman Pavin Smith. Thaiss has not struck out in 49 at bats this season, while Smith has whiffed just once in 47. Both have significant power potential (Thaiss hit 10 home runs last year, Smith hit seven), but they don’t sell out to hit home runs. Thaiss, ranked No. 98 on the Top 100 draft prospects list, is hitting .367/.483/.510 and has drawn 11 walks in 13 games this season. Smith, a sophomore who was voted Preseason All-American by MLB scouting directors, is hitting .362/.433/.596 with two home runs and nine walks. Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said both were advanced hitters in high school, but they have grown even more disciplined as they have gained experience in college. "They’re aggressive at the plate attacking the ball, but they’re pretty selective and don’t swing at pitches off the plate much,” O’Connor said. "It’s nice having them back-to-back in the lineup, and not just the one of them.” While players such as Smith and Thaiss have long been known for their advanced approaches at the plate, it is a trait that many hitters are still learning in college. Louisville outfielder Colin Lyman struggled at the plate last year, playing primarily as defensive replacement. He garnered just 34 at bats in 42 games, and whiffed in 11 of them. This season, he has yet to strike out in his first 30 at bats and is hitting .344/.324/.375 in 12 games for the No. 4 Cardinals. Lyman said he made cutting down on his strikeouts a priority in the offseason. "Last year I struggled a bit with it,” Lyman said. "I changed my approach with two strikes, not try to do too much and just shorten up my swing.” Lyman, Thaiss, White and the rest of the players who have yet to strikeout, eventually will get rung up. But White is hoping to put that first strikeout off as long as possible. "I’ve always been a guy with really good hand-eye coordination,” White said. "I do realize I don’t strike out a lot and I take a lot of pride in that. To me, walking back to the dugout after a bad at bat is the worst feeling in the world.” News and Notes Atlantic Coast Conference: Florida State coach Mike Martin has been pleased with the play of freshman catcher Cal Raleigh, who has started his college career hitting .311/.431/.422 in 13 games. Martin immediately plugged Raleigh into the cleanup spot of the No. 15 Seminoles lineup, an assignment he has handled well. "He’s getting better every day,” Martin said. "A great addition to our baseball team. I think that this young man, with a lot of hard work, will be someone that we’ll be talking about whenever he decides to move to the next level.”… North Carolina senior infielder Eli Sutherland leads the No. 12 Tar Heels with three home runs this season, despite having gotten just 18 at bats in eight games. Coach Mike Fox said if he had been told before the season that Sutherland would lead the team in homers going into ACC play, he would have wondered what happened to his other hitters. "But that is a good thing,” Fox said. "You get good surprises.” Sutherland also leads the team with 12 RBIs and is hitting .389/.480/.889. Big 12 Conference: Oklahoma rearranged its rotation in advance of its series against Long Beach State this weekend. Righthander Alec Hansen (0-2, 5.23) moves to Friday night following his strong start last week against UCLA in the Dodger Stadium Classic. Freshman righthander Chris Andristos (2-0, 0.75) moves into the weekend rotation after making two solid midweek starts, and Opening Day starter Jake Elliott (0-0, 3.24) moves to Sunday. The Sooners (5-7-1) have gotten off to a disappointing start to the season and have yet to post a winning weekend. Big Ten Conference: Michigan State started the Snowbird Classic with midweek wins against Illinois State and Florida Gulf Coast to improve to 10-1 this season. It is the Spartans’ best start since 1971 and has them up to No. 17 in the RPI, according to WarrenNolan.com. Pac-12 Conference: Eight of Southern California’s first 11 games this season have been decided by one run. Part of the reason the Trojans (6-5) have been in so many tight games this season has been their struggles to hit with runners on base. They have stranded 105 runners already this season, much to the frustration of coach Dan Hubbs. "We have to figure out a way to get the guys to relax in the spot,” he said. "We’re going to continue to work and work and work because I still believe and I’ve never stopped believing that this team is a very good team. And granted we’ve played some very good competition, but I think we should be better than we’re playing right now.” Southeastern Conference: Louisiana State righthander Alex Lange was truly dominant as a freshman, going 12-0, 1.97 with 131 strikeouts in 114 innings. So there has been some angst about his relatively slow start to his sophomore season. After three starts, Lange is 1-0, 4.15, though he has 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 17 1/3 innings. Coach Paul Mainieri told reporters in Baton Rouge that he is not worried about the Preseason All-American. "If my biggest concern is Alex Lange, I’m living a pretty good life,” Mainieri said. Lange has had some minor mechanical problems that have affected his command, but should be correctable, especially considering his exemplary work ethic … Georgia split a pair of games at Charlotte this week to run its record to 9-5. Before the Bulldogs first game against the 49ers on Tuesday, they visited the Hendrick Motorsports facilities. They learned about how NASCAR pit crews train and raced each other to change tires. Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said it was a good team building experience. "Just the attention to detail, the teamwork and the camaraderie that’s gone on that we’ve seen (Tuesday), it’s been really beneficial for our guys,” he told hendrickmotorsports.com. Other Conferences
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: Seattle lefthander Tarik Skubal is off to one of the best starts of any pitcher in the country. The sophomore is 3-0, 0.00 with 27 strikeouts and six walks in 18 innings. Skubal, listed at 6-foot-3, has a powerful fastball, which he can run up to 94 mph. Seattle, which is off to an 8-4 start and has the sixth-best team ERA in the country, hosts Minnesota (7-3) this weekend ... An outbreak of the highly contagious norovirus on Lafayette’s campus led the school on Wednesday to suspend all campus activates, including athletics, through Sunday. Lafayette had been scheduled to travel to Georgia State this weekend, but that series has been cancelled. Georgia State scheduled a doubleheader Saturday against Division II Fairmont State (W. Va.) to fill the hole in its weekend.

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