Third baseman Tyler LaPorte is just the kind of leadoff hitter Southern University baseball coach Kerrick Jackson likes.
He comes out swinging.
Whether it’s the first pitch or the 20th, LaPorte is out there to make something happen rather than wait for it. The result is that he’s become the Jaguars’ most productive hitter.
Going into this weekend’s Southwest Athletic Conference series at Grambling, LaPorte has risen to No. 3 in league batting average behind teammate Hunter David (.400) and Jackson State’s Jaylyn Williams (.397).
He leads the Jaguars and is second in the league with 48 runs batted in, a rarity for a leadoff hitter. It’s partly due to Jackson’s propensity to load the bottom of the order with good hitters who can run.
“He’s a high energy player,” Jackson said. “He goes at it 100 miles an hour.
“Because he swings hard, it allows him to have success on pitches you wouldn’t normally think he could hit. He’s a guy who would be classified as a bad-ball hitter. He’ll put balls in play on pitches you wouldn’t suggest he swing at.”
Opponents shouldn’t be fooled into thinking LaPorte will get himself out often with his wild-swinging attitude. In 208 plate appearances, he’s struck out only 18 times. He has 15 doubles three triples and three home runs, and a team high 47 runs scored.
Against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last month, he belted a pair of three-run homers and knocked in seven runs in one game. On Sunday he was on base five times and scored five runs while hitting a single, double and triple against Texas Southern.
“I’ve just been trying to square the ball up consistently,” said LaPorte, a 6-feet-1, 175-pounder from Lafayette. “Good things happen when you do that. I try to be aggressive early in the count. My approach is pretty good with two strikes but if I get a good pitch to hit early, I’ll take it.”
LaPorte’s ability was under the radar before he got to Southern. Self-described as “not that good of a hitter” at Acadiana High School and a “singles hitter” in two seasons at Baton Rouge Community College, he’s blossomed as he’s built his size and strength and tinkered with his mechanics.
“I’m a totally different player than when I first got here,” LaPorte said. “They push us every day to get better. Changed my swing may five times and changed to a leg kick this summer. It started working for me so I stuck with it. I’ve made some minor adjustments that seem to be working.”
Teammates feed off of his aggressiveness in the batters’ box and his ability to work a pitcher by fouling off multiple pitches with two strikes.
“He’s consistent because he never takes any pitches off,” shortstop Malik Blaise said. “I’m not surprised how he’s hitting the ball. No matter where he is in the lineup, he’s going to do his best.”
LaPorte’s fielding has solidified him as one of the top all-around players in the conference. He’s made only seven errors in 129 chances while settling into a new position. He made 24 errors at BRCC and cut that number down to 14 last season at shortstop.
LaPorte said he’s always been a shortstop including last season when he and Blaise were in opposite positions. They’ve swapped and now Southern is the SWAC’s top fielding team with a .960 percentage.
“At first I was skeptical about move to third,” LaPorte said. “It’s definitely an adjustment but I’m comfortable after playing every game there. Assistant coach Jerry Houston has helped me a lot with that. I feel I can play anywhere on the field.”