E.A. Sports Today

Baer-ing down at the plate

Piedmont catcher changes his approach, brings more pop to the Bulldogs’ lineup

Sophomore catcher Derrick Baer adjusted his stance and had six hits and seven RBIs last weekend for Piedmont.

Sophomore catcher Derrick Baer adjusted his stance and had six hits and seven RBIs last weekend for Piedmont.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Sometimes the smallest suggestion can have the biggest impact; that’s why they call it coaching.

Take the case of Derrick Baer. One small suggestion from Piedmont baseball coach James Blanchard last week took Baer from a position player being DH’d for earlier in the season to one of the hottest bats in an already stout Bulldogs’ lineup.

Blanchard was watching his hitters from the outfield when he noticed his sophomore catcher’s stance in the batter’s box was too spread out and leaning over the plate.

They’ve worked on it before in The Dome, the Bulldogs’ weather shelter turned indoor practice facility, but Baer fell back into his old form and Blanchard told him to tighten it up.

The weekend arrived and so did Baer with a new approach at the plate. He blistered Westbrook Christian with six hits in eight at-bats to raise his average more than 60 points. He reached base seven times altogether and drove in seven runs.

“I guess you could say I was ecstatic about (the results),” Baer said. “I honestly didn’t think about it during the game – I’m trying to win the game – but afterward when I looked at all the stats, I kind of wondered why I haven’t been doing it all my life.

“I’m going to keep hitting like that.”

Actually it took a little while to catch on. Blanchard worked on it with him earlier this season, but it took last week’s gentle nudge for the light to come on. That’s the thing with old habits — they feel comfortable until somebody shows you they’re not working.

He went 4-for-5 in the 13-1 first game against the Warriors with five RBIs, delivering a two-run single in the first, a two-run double in the sixth and an RBI single in the seventh. He followed it with a 2-for-3 game in the 9-3 nightcap and two more RBIs.

And it didn’t stop after the sweep. Baer was stinging the ball in practice earlier this week, too, as the Bulldogs prepared for the start of a Round 3 home series Friday against familiar playoff opponent Winfield.

“I guess we just got so caught up in the playoffs and practice that I didn’t really notice it and last week I watched him and he was still spread out and kind of humped over,” said Blanchard, a self-describe hitting fanatic. “I walked over to him and said close you stance and stand up like I told you last week … because you hit it good when we’re in The Dome.

“It has built his confidence changing his stance and his approach. He just killed it.”

Baer was the B-team catcher last year and he could get away with his swing flaw against lesser pitchers, but he got an admitted “reality check” this year when he moved up to the varsity for the first time.

He played some in the field and caught the third games of area series to give Easton Kirk a break, but the Bulldogs would use a designated hitter in his lineup spot. He became a regular shortly after the team returned from Gulf Shores when it lost a valuable bat and doctors recommended Kirk move out from behind the plate for the benefit of his knees.

Kirk moved to third and Baer went behind the plate where he has handled the Bulldogs’ dominant pitching staff and has been in the lineup ever since. If he keeps hitting like he has with this new approach, they’ll never get him out.

NOTES: The Bulldogs knocked out Winfield in the 2012 and 2014 playoffs … Series winner gets either Madison Academy or Plainview on the road.

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