Statistically, Jameson Fisher is the best hitter in the country this season.
The Southeastern Louisiana first baseman leads the country in batting average (.437) and on-base percentage (.564).
He’s been the driving force for the Lions this all year on the way to their second NCAA regional appearance in three seasons, leading the team in almost every offensive category. The Lions are 20-8 in game in which he registered multiple hits.
But when Southeastern plays Rice in the first round of the Baton Rouge Regional at 7 p.m. Friday at Alex Box Stadium, the Lions will have to find anybody but Fisher to lift them to victory.
“He is not going to hit. We are going to walk him the entire time,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “He is a non factor unless he walks a run in.
“Not many hitters have the ability to hit .437 and can run. If you have an empty base with runners in scoring position, the odds are not there in our favor. I am not the best at math, but I understand those numbers.”
Fisher said he “appreciated the respect” Graham showed in his statement, but he hopes he’ll see a chance to swing the bat at some point.
Fisher is no stranger to taking a free trip to first base, though. He is the 17th-most walked batter in the nation this year with 50 walks, including 11 intentional walks.
He’s had 12 multi-walk outings this season.
“I’m doing really well this year and I’m leading the country, and a lot of attention will come of that. But it’s not about me going into the tournament,” Fisher said. “It’s about the team. Even in those times that I’ve struggled, we’ve got awesome players on this team that have been able to pick me up. Things aren’t depending on me to keep us going.”
Fisher said he is looking forward to seeing Rice’s ace pitcher, Jon Duplantier, after the right-hander was named the Conference USA pitcher of the year thanks in part to his 143 strikeouts this season, the second-best total in Division I.
But Graham announced Thursday that senior pitcher Blake Fox will get the start against the Lions.
Coincidentally, Fox (4-7) enters the game as having thrown the fewest walks of any Owls starter this season.
Sophomore pitcher Mac Sceroler (10-3) will start for Southeastern.
“Pitchers pitch to their strengths, and when you’ve got a guy like (Fisher), you notice their strengths as well,” Fox said. “Ultimately, it comes down to competing and just going out there and throwing what you know and being aggressive.”
Graham said he chose to go with Fox becuase Duplantier threw nine innings between two games last weekend in the Conference USA tournament.
Fox, a left-handed pitcher, was also the optimal choice for Rice once Graham saw that almost half the Lions lineup hits left-handed, as well as Fox’s ability to keep runners in check on the bases.
Southeastern attempted the third-most steals in the country this season, including a sixth-best 109 successful attempts.
(They’ve also been caught stealing more times than any other team.)
“That’s who we are. That’s what we do,” Southeastern coach Matt Riser said. “We’re aggressive in everything we do, whether it’s swinging the bat, running the bases, pitching or defense. We’re going to make mistakes, it’s going to happen, but if we make them aggressive, we’re going to be in good shape.”