In a frustrating weekend series with Cincinnati, capped off by a six-run loss in Sunday’s rubber match, Anthony Nucerino seemed to do all (or at least most) of the right things.
The right fielder from Fayetteville, N.Y. saw his batting average skyrocket 157 points after multiple hits in each game against the Bearcats. Now batting .324 after a nice 6-for-9 on the weekend, Nucerino is riding a six-game hitting streak, with four consecutive multi-hit efforts.
“I think, you know, I’m just doing what the coaches ask me, doing my part,” Nucerino said of his recent play. “If I’m in the game, I'm gonna give it my all, put together some good at-bats, play a solid right field. If I’m not, you know, I’m cheering my guys on, hoping for the best, hoping that we get a W. All I can do is control the controllable, and that’s my at-bats and playing a solid right field.”
Nucerino has had to spend his fair share of time observing rather than playing with as many appearances as the Huskies have losses (12). Dubbed the opening day starter in the right corner, guys like Kyler Fedko and Michael Chiovitti take playing time from the redshirt sophomore, but it has not bothered Nucerino.
“A whole pot of guys right now are just getting spot starts, stuff like that, and all you gotta do is seize the opportunity, be where your feet are and just have fun,” Nucerino said.
Nucerino’s recent play has not gone unnoticed by the man running the show. Head coach Jim Penders said Nucerino, who usually hits from the nine-spot, can act as a “second lead-off,” with the amount of pitches he watches in the batter's box, his level of comfort batting with two-strikes and his ability to go the other way with pitches.
Penders also said he can be more creative with his lineup with Nucerino in right field, allowing for some usuals to get reps at DH while others get to play a full nine. With that being said, Penders made sure to note that nothing is guaranteed.
“Right now he’s our best option,” Penders said. “Versus lefties he’s very good. Versus righties he’s very good. In college baseball, nobody really ‘locks down’ anything, but he’s certainly making a bid. He made a bid in the preseason for that position and he got hurt. I got a lot of confidence in him to give us good at-bats, give us really good at-bats.”
Nucerino has lead a movement, if you will, of productivity from the bottom third of the Huskies lineup. In just the two games played at Dunkin Donuts park this weekend, the bottom three batters (Saturday: Nucerino, David Langer, Will Lucas/Conor Moriarty. Sunday: Patrick Winkel, Thad Phillips, Nucerino) collaborated for a 9-for-23 performance. Guys like Winkel, Langer and Phillips may hit higher up in the order from game to game, but productivity from that part of the order is something this ballclub has not had most of the season.
“It’s awesome,” third baseman Langer said. “The beginning of the year, the bottom of the order was kind of a weakness and we were giving away runs, giving away potential runs there. We’re giving a lot better at-bats and we’re becoming a much more complete team because of it.”
Langer, who crushed his first home run since his junior college days in the eight-hole, watched freshman, Pat Winkel, crush his first and second long balls of his promising collegiate career from the seven-spot a day later.
Some players get finicky about where they hit in the lineup, but not Nucerino. Whether he is leading off, in his usual nine-spot or anywhere in-between, it does not matter. For him, staying within the game and trusting himself is what is important, as anyone at any given moment can change the course of a game.
“I think always being prepared, always being ready to contribute to the game is so important,” Nucerino said. “You know, seven, eight, nine, they’re all important. It doesn’t matter where you hit. You all gotta face the pitcher. So [if] productivity comes from there that’s great. I mean, like I said, I’m just trying to get on. Hopefully somebody else can hit me in, which is, you know, what the bottom half is supposed to do. And, just play the game hard. That’s all you can do.”
Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.