Luke Heyer (Kentucky) is playing like a man possessed.
The Kentucky third baseman is in the midst of an 11 game hit streak that includes four home runs, six multi-hit games, nine RBIs and 19 hits in 45 plate appearances. Not to mention he boosted his regular season slugging percentage from .340 to .548 over that span.
“It’s definitely a lot of confidence building from that ‘cause you don’t feel like you have to get two, three hits a game to see your average go up or something like that,” Heyer said.
And though he’s found success of late, it hasn’t been a simple year for Heyer.
After a three-way competition for the everyday third base role at Kentucky, Heyer found himself on the outside looking in and was releagated to a bench spot. He only saw time in 37 of the Wildcats’ 66 games and started just 18 after transferring from the College of Central Florida.
He finished the season hitting just .262 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
“It was definitely nice to be a part of the team like we were this year and whatever my role was [I] was just trying to be the best at it,” Heyer said of being on the bench.
Once he had arrived in Bethesda, the hitting woes Heyer faced in Lexington followed. Through July 8, he was batting just .255 with 10 hits in 47 plate appearances and two multi-hit games.
“It took a little while ‘cause obviously I didn’t play as much at Kentucky so I hadn’t had that many at-bats,” Heyer said.
Then something clicked.
In a 13-0 romp over the Gaithersburg Giants on July 9, Heyer found his stride. The Lithia, FL native went 4-for-6 with a home run – his first of the year – and finished a triple short of the cycle.
At the time Heyer joked the home run was just a way for him to get some credibility after manager Sal Colangelo had entered him into the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Home Run Derby despite not hitting a homer all year. But that long ball and game as a whole sparked the Lithia, FL natives’ bat just as he had hoped.
“That was huge [for] confidence ‘cause I was about to do the Home Run Derby with no home runs,” Heyer said. “Finally hitting one kind of got that off my belt so I don’t have to think about it ‘cause you know I’ve got some power and it’s frustrating when you don’t have a home run yet.”
“So once I got one it just kind of settled me down a little bit and kind of got [me] in a little groove there.”
After finishing tied for second in the Home Run Derby, Heyer boosted his average from .231 to .321 over the last 14 regular season games. He finished the campaign tied for fourth on the team in home runs and seventh in both batting average and RBIs while sitting just ninth on the team in at-bats. Needless to say, Heyer has most definitely found his stride.
Now in the postseason, Heyer’s stabilizing bat has continued to carry the Big Train. In Bethesda’s Semifinal Series against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts Heyer was 4-for-8 with two runs and three stolen bases.
Heyer and the Big Train now turn their attention to the Baltimore Redbirds in the CRCBL Championship Series.
“It’s big doing the things that we did at Kentucky, kind of knowing that don’t make the moment too big and stuff like that,” Heyer said.
Game 2 of the Championship Series will be Saturday at 1 p.m.at Calvert Hall HS
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