Zach Lavy guides Missouri baseball out of midseason slump
Lavy: “This season is my last season so I’m just trying to let things happen, see more pitches and see where it goes.”
Apr. 05, 2016
Before last weekend, the Missouri baseball team’s offense was in desperate need of a leader.
The Tigers had just been swept in consecutive weekends by then-No. 1 Florida and No. 4 Vanderbilt. Missouri combined for 75 strikeouts and only 23 runs over the six-game skid.
Missouri’s top hitters from last season, then-sophomores Ryan Howard and Jake Ring and then-freshman Brett Bond, combined to hit .283 with 14 home runs a year ago. This season, the trio has seen its average fall by 11 points and has only combined for seven home runs more than halfway through the season.
The Missouri offense needed someone to step up and guide the team out of its slump. That leader took the shape of the team’s lone senior position player: first baseman Zach Lavy.
Lavy, who had been hitting well since the start of the season, took his game to another level against No. 15 Arkansas this past weekend to help lead Missouri to its first Southeastern Conference wins of the season.
The senior hit .416 over the three-game stretch with four RBIs. Since the Vanderbilt sweep, Lavy has hit .438 with six RBIs.
This may come as a surprise to Missouri fans, as Lavy only hit .238 with 30 RBIs last season. This season, Lavy is hitting .319 and already has 26 RBIs with 26 games remaining in the season.
Lavy credits a difference in approach for his emergence in Missouri’s offense.
“There is a big difference in my approach,” Lavy said. “I’m trying to see more pitches, stay more comfortable in the box. I know last year, me and (hitting coach) Hunter (Mense) talked about this a lot before the season, I was kind of putting more pressure on myself. Unneeded pressure really.”
By staying comfortable, Lavy has been able to stay within his swing.
Lavy’s swing is reminiscent of many big left-handers in the major leagues. Lavy guides his bat on a graceful, long path that usually finishes with the bat smashing the ball to his pull side.
Lavy is not concerned with the predictability of his swing. Although defenses often shift toward his favored right field, Lavy doesn’t plan on changing his swing anytime soon.
“If I hit a ball good enough and they are playing in the four-hole, then so be it,” Lavy said. “You see guys in the big leagues and they say if they are shifting you but you are a pull hitter, your average is still going to be higher if you play to your swing instead of trying to go up there and hit it the other way.”
Coach Tim Jamieson sees in Lavy as a hitter with excellent plate vision.
“He’s just seeing the ball really well,” Jamieson said. “You can tell by the pitches he’s not swinging at as much as the swings he does take.”
Lavy’s plate discipline is wearing off on his teammates. So far, Missouri’s plate discipline has improved since its dismal 44-strikeout performance in the Florida series. The Tigers only struck out 24 times against Arkansas.
“(We need to) see more pitches, be more conservative in the box but not so conservative that we are taking a bunch of strikes,” Lavy said. “We just have to take what we can from each pitcher, know what they are going to pitch and stuff and get good pitches to hit.”
Sophomore Trey Harris has also played a part in Lavy’s dominance. Harris, who normally hits either right before or right after Lavy, pushes and competes with Lavy every practice and every game.
“Me and Zach energy-wise feed off each other,” Harris said. “If you ever see one of us get a hit, the other one is pushing them harder. We’ve always done that.”
The competition between the two provides a sort of psychological effect for Lavy.
“It seems like every time I get a big hit, he’s always on base or if I’m before him in the lineup, every time he gets a big hit I feel like I’m on base,” Lavy said. “If we can keep doing that, we can score more runs.”
Lavy hopes to be able to continue his dominance over SEC pitchers for the remainder of his final season. However, his main goal is to make a regional appearance for the first time in his collegiate career.
“(I want to) win more than we lose,” Lavy said. “Then make the SEC Tournament and then I’m trying to make a regional, you know? It’s senior year.”
Edited by Nate Gatter | firstname.lastname@example.org