There’s something to be said for players getting hot at the right time.
It’s great to have a great regular season, but it doesn’t make much difference if you fall apart at the end of the year.
Lakewood’s Jarae Mitchell proves to be a fine example of a well-timed spike.
Mitchell won Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week after leading the Gator offense to three wins in the Mingo Bay Classic over spring break.
It’s a different baseball environment, as the Gators rent a house for game week at the beach, but Mitchell was just focused on staying to himself and playing his best ball.
“Nothing different, just trying to go out there and have fun,” Mitchell said of his approach last week. “I’m just trying to do my job, that’s really it.”
Mitchell certainly did his job. The freshman infielder had a total of eight points as the Gators went 3-0. He was 3-7 in all three games, walking four more times, while scoring three runs. Head coach Bill DeLavan enjoyed seeing his young hitter stay to himself.
“He’s just growing. As a freshman, he’s really become a bigger role for us this year,” DeLavan said. “He understands his approach and how to attack pitchers and doesn’t try to do too much.
“Sometimes kids want out of what they do best and he’s starting to figure that out. He just needs to be who he is, that’s good enough. He’s maturing as a hitter.”
Mitchell started the week 2-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored in a 13-7 win over Man High School. He then drove in four runs, reached base twice and scored once in a 15-0 win over Saranac. In the last game, he didn’t have an official at bat, but he walked twice and kicked a run in a 5-4 win over Andrews.
“I was just trying to have fun and play relaxed,” Mitchell said. “I was trying not to play too tight and not overdo it.”
The timing of this performance was crucial. Lakewood played for the VI-3A Region Championship on Wednesday with a game against Marlboro County. It’s their last regular season game before the playoffs start next week, so it was the perfect tune-up for the young infielder.
“It was a big tune-up,” Mitchell said. “It helps us prepare for Marlboro and the playoffs. I feel like we’re at a good point right now.”
Mitchell isn’t the only Gator hitting his offensive pace at the right time. DeLavan said the team was starting to get into a rhythm as the regular season drew to a close.
“The timing couldn’t be better,” DeLavan said. “We’ve got three or four guys who probably fall into that category. It’s a lot of guys who hadn’t had a lot of college at bats who are starting to mature into those roles and figure things out. We’ve been through a lot of this season we’re just trying to get a run, but lately we’ve been able to have several innings and take the pressure off the pitcher and the defense a bit.”