July 17, 2009
An opportunity to play close to home has proved to be a perfect fit for Ben Fleming and Brent Hallmark.
The former New Hope High School baseball standouts, who are teammates on the Golden Triangle Jets, were named Wednesday to the Cotton States Baseball League All-Star team.
Fleming added to his totals Thursday by going 2-for-3 with a double, a run scored and four RBIs in the Jets'' 7-6 loss to the North Delta Dealers. He leads the team in batting average (.347), hits (17), RBIs (20), and total bases. His 20 RBIs also lead the league.
Fleming also allowed one hit and one run in two-thirds of an inning Thursday as the Golden Triangle team slipped to 8-10-1.
"I have figured some things out mechanics wise that will help me," said Fleming, who was a junior at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga., this past season. "The more playing time I get the better I will get."
Fleming admits to being hard on himself, and said his average could be even higher if not for so many hard-hit outs.
He said he is excited about being named to his first all-star team since he was 11 or 12 years old.
"It is awesome," Fleming said. "When I saw (the date for the All-Star game) on the schedule, that was one of my goals to make that. By making it I felt I would have helped my team in some way."
Fleming said he has helped the team by being more relaxed and more selective at the plate. He said he has developed a better understanding of situational hitting, and he hopes he will be able to use what he has learned next season as a senior.
"This summer has helped me understand a little better what approach I need to take," Fleming said.
Hallmark said the Jets have come to depend on Fleming in the middle of the order. He said his teammate isn''t someone who focuses on leading the team or the league in statistical categories.
"Ben has been one of our biggest guys," Hallmark said. "He has been our RBI guy and someone we rely on to drive in runs. He never has gone into a slump. He is going to go out and hit the ball hard every time."
Like Fleming, Hallmark said he didn''t enter the CSBL North Division season trying to be the best in any category. His goal was to pitch as many innings as possible after pitching only four innings this past season as a redshirt freshman at Delta State.
Hallmark is doing that and more.
At 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA, he leads the league in wins, strikeouts (57), innings (42 1/3), appearances (12), and is tied for the league lead with two complete games.
Hallmark said a shortage of pitching has helped him get a lot of work.
"I think it is helping me a whole lot," Hallmark said. "My biggest thing is trying to throw my game and to do the best I can."
Hallmark said he hasn''t tried to be a dominating pitcher. He said his success comes from the fact that he is pitching to contact, getting ahead of hitters, and relying on his curveball to be his out pitch.
Hallmark said it has helped all of the pitchers to face hitters who are using wood cats. College baseball teams use average-friendly aluminum bats in the spring.
"Going into the summer I was not necessarily weak mentally but not where I needed to be," Hallmark said. "I think I have gained a lot of strength mentally with pitching, and that is the biggest thing. I am taking it pitch by pitch and making one pitch at a time. If you do that, good things will happen. I just try to execute my part and let everything else take care of itself."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.