LAFAYETTE — Every day Louisiana-Lafayette junior shortstop Brad Antchak comes to the park, he knows he’s going to work like an everyday player.
That in itself has fueled a strong stretch for the junior college transfer, particularly in the field. He battled some inconsistency early this season when he was locked in a time share with freshman shortstop Hunter Kasuls.
But Kasuls broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch in the Cajuns’ series opener against Georgia State, opening the door for Antchak.
“It was an awful thing that happened to Hunter, just a fluke thing and I feel terrible for the guy,” Antchak said. “But it’s nice to come to the field knowing you’re going to be out there every day getting your reps and getting some consistent at-bats going.
Antchak has started three straight games at shortstop, and has performed well in each. In Friday’s game against Georgia State, his first start after Kasuls’ broken hand, Antchak made a fantastic diving snag to the third base side and turned a pair of slick double plays.
“He’s got a lot of tools, he knows how to play the position and he’s building some confidence out there,” second baseman Stefan Trosclair said. “He’s becoming a good shortstop out there for us.”
Though he has earned two separate gold glove honors for his defensive ability at prior stops, that version of him wasn’t always on display earlier this season.
He came off the bench to relieve Kasuls in the 10th inning against Texas Tech in Minute Maid Park earlier this season after Kasuls committed a mistake in the ninth to extend the game. Antchak then booted a ball that could’ve been an inning-ending double play, allowing Texas Tech to rally for the go-ahead run.
He committed another error in a start against Troy a couple weeks ago, dropping his fielding percentage to .931 for the season. While errors happen, Antchak admitted he gets angry when recalling those two plays.
“The first one at Minute Maid, I read it wrong, I came off the bench and I honestly probably wasn’t locked in enough and I made a terrible read,” Antchak said. “The second one, I tried to big league it, to come up on it and then I didn’t fully get my glove down and I let it roll under me.
“They’re both easily makeable plays. I was kind of (angry) at myself. I know I can do better than that.”
And he has been lately. In that Friday game against Georgia State, he converted all nine of his fielding chances. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, he’s 17-for-17 in the field with three double plays turned.
Antchak said it’s never really been a matter of confidence, it was a matter of proving he belonged at this level, both to himself and to his teammates.
“It’s just trying to get people to believe in you,” Antchak said.
But coach Tony Robichaux wasn’t so sure. He saw a more confident infielder roaming at shortstop in Friday’s game against Georgia State, and he saw the effect of that confidence.
“Confidence is unbelievable,” Robichaux said after that game. “Early in the year at Minute Maid (Park), he sits back on that ball. Tonight, he’s rolling and flipping and making plays. It’s amazing what confidence does.”
He’s settled in as a fielder. Next up on Antchak’s to-do list is to prove his bat belongs in the lineup as well.
Antchak hit .364 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs for his junior college team in Oklahoma last year, but has so far hit .244 with one extra base hit in 46 plate appearances this season.
“I want to come out there and earn my spot, solidify myself as a guy on the team who can really help,” Antchak said. “I feel I can help the team out defensively and offensively when everything starts rolling and I can get my swing to where I know it can be.”