First Things First

March 26, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Pitchers aren’t supposed to hit and his first two seasons on the Flats, Jake Davies pretty much didn’t and really shouldn’t have been expected to.

He batted .216, but only got up 37 times — seven fewer plate appearances than mound appearances, where he was a lefty reliever.

Backing up All-American Tony Plagman at first base didn’t exactly help him get in the lineup.

But times change and certainly have for Davies.

He’s no longer coming out of the pen and occasional playing first. Now he’s playing first and occasionally throwing a bullpen.

The change has been for the better.

“I’m enjoying getting to play every day,” said the junior from McDonough, Ga., native and former Eagle’s Landing Christian High School star, whose older brother, Kyle pitched for the Atlanta Braves for two-plus seasons and is currently beginning his fourth full season with the Kansas City Royals. “I like to pitch and it was a true passion going out there and being a bulldog for the team in the late innings but I’m going to be wherever the team needs me most. Right now, I’m hitting the ball well and that’s where they need me and that’s where I’m going to be.”

Davies smacked a pair of opposite-field hits, a double and a homer, in Saturday’s 12-3, 10-inning win in Miami, clinching the series and extending the Yellow Jackets winning streak to 15 straight games.

He’s been a big part of the winning streak and in some ways, personifies Georgia Tech’s reversal of fortune after a slow start.

Davies was hitting .222 after the team’s first four games and even though his average rose to .357 heading into play March 4, he’d shown no sign of becoming the regular first baseman, having started only twice there. Tech stood at 5-4.

But then things turned around. Actually, Davies and assistant coach Bryan Prince turned them around.

“Coach Prince, our hitting coach and I went up to the cage one afternoon and worked on changing my stride before I hit,” Davies said. “I cut it down a little bit and I’m keeping my body behind the ball. I’m staying on the ball, I’m seeing the ball a lot better than I was at the beginning of the season. I didn’t really get to hit a whole lot my first two seasons here. Hitting up (in the team’s cages) really helped me out.”

He’s been helping himself to hits ever since. In the last 15 games — he’s started 14 times, including Saturday — he’s hitting .419 (26-for-62), with all four home runs and 16 RBIs. He’s raised his season average to .408, behind only Kyle Wren, who entered the weekend as the ACC’s top hitter.

The Jackets are 16-0 this season with Davies at first base and 17-0 with him in the lineup. But he refuses to make any kind of claim on being a good luck charm.

“I wouldn’t say it’s because of me,” he said. “Lately we’ve been taking better approaches at the plate and we’ve been playing a lot better baseball.

“We have a great attitude,” he continued. “All the guys really like being around each other. It’s just a great atmosphere to play in. We’re all feeding off each other. One guy gets a hit and then another guy picks up another guy when he doesn’t get a hit. It’s a great attitude on the team. I don’t think it’s anything with me being in the lineup. I just believe we’re really jelling and coming through when we need to be.”

As an upperclassman, Davies has embraced the role of being a team leader, leading by example both on the field and in the clubhouse.

“How you carry yourself in the locker room, what you do off the field, not only on the field, being a good guy, being a guy that people look up to,” he said. “After the game you go out and sign balls for the kids. You go out there and practice hard, You’re doing the right things before practice and after the games. You’re not going out and maybe doing things you shouldn’t be doing.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to replace all those other things you used to do when you become a leader.”

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