All season long, Southern infielder Hunter David has been feeling it at the plate. Since rising to the top of the individual batting leaders in the Southwest Athletic Conference, he’s feeling that, too.
David, a Zachary native who transferred to Southern from Baton Rouge Community College, has been a big part of the Jaguars’ resurgence to a 22-15 mark and first place in the West Division. Southern plays a big SWAC series against Texas Southern beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at Lee-Hines Field.
For the past three weeks, David has led the league with an average that has stayed well above .400. He surged into the top spot with a 12-for-16 week against Grambling and Lamar, raising his mark to .466. Since then it has fallen to .417, but he is still 29 points ahead of teammate Tyler LaPorte.
“It feels good to hold on to the top spot and be leading,” David said. “It’s frustrating at times, too, because you’ve fell like you’ve got a weight on your shoulders and you’ve got to get the job done every time. This is baseball; you’re going to fail. When you fail you get back in there and grind, one pitch at a time.”
David, who usually bats second behind LaPorte, has been getting extra special attention from pitchers and coaches as the season has moved on.
Tuesday’s victory against Alcorn State was a good sampling of how hard it is to maintain a .400 pace. His pop-up in the first inning fell between three players for his only hit. In his last at-bat, his bid for a grand slam fell a couple of feet short of the left field fence and went for a sacrifice fly.
“I thought I had one,” he said. “I didn’t get all barrel but a sacrifice fly scores the run and gets the job done. That’s all that matters.”
Southern coach Kerrick Jackson knows what his player is going through since baseball is all about performance over the long haul. Southern is aiming for SWAC tournament seeding since the automatic bid goes to the tournament champion.
Jackson has been moving David back and forth from catcher to first base to help take some of the pressure off.
“He’s locked in; he may be focusing on it a little bit now and putting more pressure on himself to maintain,” Jackson said. “My message to him will be to relax, go out, stay consistent with the approach and don’t worry about what the numbers are. Continue to have quality at bats and let the numbers take care of themselves.”
David was named SWAC Hitter of the Week in two consecutive weeks. He’s missed eight games partly because of his propensity for getting hit by pitches, a league-leading 14 times. He took one in the thigh at Arkansas Pine Bluff last Friday and had to miss the second game of the doubleheader.
LaPorte, who was a teammate of David’s at BRCC, said he’s not surprised at the success David has enjoyed in his first season with the Jaguars. David batted .376 at BRCC as a sophomore last season.
“He’s always squared up the ball consistently,” LaPorte said. “Good things happen when you do that. He’s been a big part of our success. He prepares well, comes out to our early work and stays late after practice.”
David said playing first is easier on his legs than catching but he just likes being in the lineup anywhere. He credits Jackson with making him a much-improved player.
“He pushes me, and I want that,” David said. “It makes me better as a person and a player. I feel way more comfortable and improving under coach Jackson.
“I’m more patient and in better shape, focusing on each pitch and not taking any pitches off, training hard and being better with each pitch. There’s some pressure, but you can’t let it affect the way you play the game. You have to go and ball.”