HOOVER, Alabama – Kade Scivicque expects a small stack of papers to be on his stool in front of his locker the day after each game in which he catches.
Will Davis’ handwriting is scribbled throughout these sheets of paper, each sheet filled with boxes. There’s a box for every erratic pitch thrown toward Scivicque in the previous game.
Did the LSU catcher block the pitch? One of two boxes – ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – is checked.
A comment section follows.
“Ball in the dirt,” one might say.
“Tough pitch to stop,” another may read.
A third could say, “Great block.”
For Scivicque, it’s been a whole lot of the latter.
“He’s as good as it gets,” said Davis, LSU’s longtime assistant who began coaching catchers this season. “He’s as good as anybody we’ve ever had.”
Don’t be distracted by Scivicque’s gaudy numbers at the plate – the guy is on a 12-game hitting streak and batting a team-leading .407. Try, also, to ignore Scivicque’s caught-stealing stats – he’s nabbed nine base runners for third in the Southeastern Conference.
Focus on this: Scivicque has blocked 94 of 97 wildly thrown baseballs this season.
“He sells out,” freshman pitcher Alex Lange said. “Every pitch I throw, I know he’s going to block it.”
LSU starts a three-day Southeastern Conference series against Alabama on Thursday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium ranked in the top 5 in every major poll. The Tigers are 24-5, have what many believe is the nation’s best shortstop and best freshman starting pitcher, and they’ve got a lineup that’s second in the nation in batting average.
It all overshadows the dude behind the plate – Scivicque.
His story is well known to many. He’s gone from a lightly recruited stocky kid from the tiny town of Maurepas, to a successful junior college player, to a guy who coach Paul Mainieri says has a shot to be selected in the top 10 rounds of the MLB draft this June.
“You watch and see what’s going to happen in June,” Mainieri said. “He’s going to get himself a really good shot at professional baseball.”
And why? Sure, his bat’s great. After all, he’s referred to by some as “the Maurepas Masher.” His arm is good, too, but his receiving ability behind the plate is, well, nearly perfect.
Scivicque has missed on three erratic pitches in 97 so far this season, according to those charts Davis keeps during games. The senior thrusts his wide-bodied frame – he’s 5-11, 225 – at pitches like a secret service agent dives for a president-seeking bullet.
He’s even surprised himself at his blocking this season. It’s been that good.
“I’ve caught all my life and blocked balls all my life,” he said, “but it’s just been a steady grind to learn new things and keep polishing technique. Coming in every day and working day in and day out on blocking and receiving balls … it’s really turned my game around.”
Davis is behind some of it. A life-long catcher, he took over coaching the position this season for Javi Sanchez, who left the team. Mainieri said Sanchez had too much on his plate – he was the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach, too.
Mainieri put Davis in charge of a position he loves.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting for forever,” Davis said.
Davis still coaches the outfield – a he did last season – but that veteran group doesn’t need much attention. The 30-year-old has immersed himself in his group of catchers – Scivicque, freshman Mike Papierski and junior Chris Chinea.
He has those mid-game charts. He notes blocked balls, and he times catchers’ throws – even those warm-up tosses between innings. Davis wants his catchers to make game-like throws on the final warmup toss before an inning starts.
But his priority this year with the group? That lies in receiving pitches and blocking balls.
“A lot of people get caught up in arm strength. ‘Oh he’s got a good arm. He must be a good catcher,’” Davis said. “Well, he might be a horrible catcher with a good arm. I wanted us to steal as many strikes, wanted to keep everything that should be a strike a strike, and I wanted to be really good at blocking the baseball.”
Scivicque has bought into it. He’s had success in, even, blocking what most call “a major league curveball” from Lange. The 12-to-6 – it, at times, will go “12-to-5,” says one staff member – comes in at 83-87 mph.
“Whenever he throws his curveball, you just have to have mentality to know that you have to go and get it,” Scivicque said.
There’s no real reward for blocking a baseball. In fact, the staff had not previously charted blocked balls.
“It’s not like getting hit by a pitch where you can to run to first. You’re going to get hit and get nothing,” Davis said. “It’s hard to get that fear out of people.”
“He’s big into it,” Davis said smiling.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.