After wrapping up a week of practice and play at the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational in Bryan, Texas, West Virginia sophomore outfielder Austin Davis is back home in Orlando, Florida, getting ready to report to a nearby team for a delayed summer season.
While a number of collegiate and independent summer leagues have cancelled their 2020 seasons entirely, several, such as the Florida Collegiate Summer League, have put together a modified schedule that will allow play this year. The Florida League is set to begin practices with its teams on June 15, and begin a 30-game season on June 29.
“I am scheduled to be playing with the Seminole County Scorpions,” Davis said of his plans for the rest of the summer. “(My teammates) Madison Jeffery and Chris Klein are down here with me now and will be playing in the league.”
Against a troubled scene in which no minor league professional baseball will be played, and major league baseball’s potential return is mired in a labor struggle, Davis and his WVU teammates are among a fortunate few to be playing the game they have devoted so much work to. He’s happy to have the chance to continue developing his game.
“I want to improve on making better contact, getting on base more and cutting down on strikeouts,” Davis said of his summer goals. “Just getting better at getting on base and helping the team score.”
Davis was off to a great start in WVU’s 2020 season before the COVID-19 epidemic shuttered college sports. He was hitting .322 with 19 hits in 59 at-bats, including four doubles and a triple. Defensively, he patrolled the outfield flawlessly, covering a great deal of range while recording 42 putouts without an error. One minor negative was 11 strikeouts against just five walks in 16 games, providing an explanation for his goal of being more selective at the plate.
Doing so will provide more benefits than just a boost to his on-base percentage. As part of West Virginia’s fleet lineup that steals bases left and right, more trips to first base equals more chances to move into scoring position and put pressure on opposing pitchers.
Davis started out the season hitting near the bottom of the order, but moved up into the two slot in later games as he hit the ball consistently. No matter where he is in the lineup, though, he knows the importance of putting the ball in play and getting aboard.
“It’s important for the bottom of the order to get on base too,” he noted of the “wraparound” that those players can provide to the top of the order by setting the table with extra baserunners.
The stolen base factor also looms large in Davis’ goal to get aboard even more. WVU stole 39 bags in 45 attempts in its 16 games this year, tied for eighth nationally. Compare that to the low seven steals recorded by Mountaineer foes, and the advantage West Virginia can gain from more baserunners is apparent. Davis stole six bases in seven attempts this past spring.
Davis will embark on his summer improvement plan in his own backyard.
“The Seminole team is only about 20 minutes from my house,” the Orlando native said.