Baseball Searches For “Hot Hand”

Patrick Gustavson, Sports Editor

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As the Central Connecticut baseball team wraps up their second series in the Northeast Conference, they will now have five games outside the conference before a series with Sacred Heart in two weeks.

In that time, head coach Charlie Hickey said the team will experiment and mix and match in search of finding a “hot hand” offensively, a method the team has employed throughout the year.

Junior outfielder Dave Matthews was not someone Hickey mentioned as a contributor prior to the season. But after getting a start in the second contest of the year, the newcomer has been a constant cog in the middle of the Blue Devil order.

Matthews is hitting .258 on the season with two home runs, 14 runs batted in and 10 total extra-base hits.

“Offensively, my job is to produce and drive in runs,” Matthews said. “My goal this year was to walk more than I strike out. Just hitting the ball hard has been my approach.”

“He gets up there and gets good pitches to hit and puts the ball in play,” Hickey said of Matthews. “His hits have been double and extra bases and they tend to be run producers. Through the first 20 games, he’s been very, very good. I don’t know where we would be without him.”

Hickey also applauded Matthews’ defense a part of a new-look outfield.

Entering the season, Hickey expected to deploy sophomore Christian Layne in left, junior Chris Kanios in center and sophomore Peyton Stephens in right.

Kanios has been on and off the field due to injury the past two weeks. That in addition to a search for more offense has led to the change.

“You can look at the lineup, look at the stat sheet and you can see I’m searching for anybody with a hot hand,” Hickey said.

Matthews has now settled in as a starting corner outfielder, but junior third baseman Buddy Dewaine has also been shifted to left field, a position he played extensively as a freshman before being moved to the hot corner for his sophomore effort.

The move off third for Dewaine has opened the door for sophomore Jay Devito to get more playing time. Devito was intended to begin the year as the starting first baseman but was replaced by freshman Jack Nolan early on.

Devito got the start at shortstop in a non-conference matchup against Albany and made well of his opportunity by collecting three hits. Since, Devito has seen action in every game at all four infield positions but appeared at third in all three games against Wagner.

But the biggest reinforcement for the Blue Devils could be on the way soon.

Junior first baseman TT Bowens, who was one of the team’s top producers as a freshman in 2017, lost all but five games last year to a torn ACL. Bowens was “95 percent” through his rehab in the fall before tearing the ACL in his other knee.

Hickey called Bowens close to returning and may even appear before the next conference series.

“I’m not getting ahead of myself because we almost got there in the fall and he got hurt again but hopefully next weekend as a non-conference thing, we may be able to get him some at-bats and then be ready for the next conference weekend,” Hickey said.

The Blue Devils will also prioritize the health of junior second baseman Chandler Debrosse, who missed most of last season with hamstring issues. Hickey said a day off here and there over the next two weeks is likely.

The Blue Devils will continue to mix and match with the lineup in the hopes of finding that hot hand.