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TMP baseball hitting well, putting up runs

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Sixth-year coach Brian Schumacher estimated the Thomas More Prep-Marian baseball team hit around .350 to .360 the last two seasons, springs where the Monarchs finished as Class 3A state runner-up and lost in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament last year.

"We relied more on the sticks," Schumacher said.

This season, TMP carries a .243 team batting average in an 8-4 start. But the Monarchs have won eight of nine after they opened 0-3. Part of the reason is situational hitting and moving runners over.

TMP has tallied 63 runs this spring, including 6-3 and 6-0 home victories against powerhouse Salina-Sacred Heart on Thursday. TMP will play Monday at Russell.

"The approach to the game now is that we are manufacturing runs and they are starting to buy in and realize what we need to do as a team to make that happen," Schumacher said.

Sophomore first baseman Ryan Schippers is the only regular batting over .300 at .324. Freshman designated hitter Rick Hockett carries a .400 average in 15 at-bats.

"In practice, we've obviously seen how well he can hit the ball and defensively, he is really solid, too," Schumacher said. "... A couple of guys have been struggling a little bit at the plate, and we made the move to get him in. He has just been doing a really nice job for us."

The Monarchs have a .343 on-base percentage and have 45 walks against just 58 strikeouts. Sophomore Braiden Werth is batting .282, but has struck out just twice in 44 plate appearances and is tied for the team lead with seven RBI. On Thursday, he drove in a run with a groundout.

"It's not like they have to go up every time and get a base hit," Schumacher said. "But it's like having a guy at third and hitting the ball over to the right side or a pop fly out to the outfield to allow that runner to be able to score instead of striking out or hitting the ball onto the left side to where the runner can't advance."

The Monarchs have put pressure on the defense on the base paths, too. Shane Zimmerman, the leadoff batter and lone senior, has a team-high 14 steals without getting caught. Zimmerman also has stolen third base a couple times, a rarity in baseball.

"Stealing second I get signs, but if anybody on the team feels like if they can take third and have a good jump, he lets us go," Zimmerman said.

Overall, the Monarchs are 30 of 35 on steals. TMP has generated 6.7 runs on steals alone this year using the Stolen Base Runs formula, according to the baseball statistic webiste fangraphs.com,

"Doing the little things -- and that's what we are doing really well. Just all aspects," Schumacher said.

Sophomore second Grant Romme carries just a .229 average, but has a .386 on-base percentage and is tied for the team-high with eight walks. Romme walked in Game 1 against Sacred Heart and then delivered a bunt single in the second contest.

"He is starting to realize just how good of a player he can be," Schumacher said. "He laid down that nice bunt. We are just trying to advance the runners is all we were doing, but he ends up getting a hit out of it."