April 22, 2014 9:21:46 AM
Wells Davis is doing a good job being himself.
Whether Davis has found the right balance at the plate by "changing his approach" or by shortening his swing is open for debate. After all, there are so many moving parts involved in hitting that sometimes all it takes is one good game for a player to start seeing the ball well.
Davis, New Hope High School junior first baseman, has had more than one game this month and, as a result, has found a comfort zone at the plate and is delivering in the heart of the Trojans' batting order.
Last week, Davis went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in a 4-2 win against Oxford. The victory set the stage for New Hope to clinch the Class 5A Region 2 title Friday, which it did with an 8-0 victory against West Point. Davis had another hit in that victory to help the defending Class 5A state champions earn a first-round bye in the North State playoffs.
For his accomplishments, Davis is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"I am just having quality at-bats and trying to play my role," Davis said. "They put me in the No. 5 spot to get more chances with runners on. I am just having quality at-bats and putting the ball in play to get a few more hits I wouldn't have gotten if I was striking out."
A year ago, Davis hit .194 in 36 at-bats. This season, New Hope (22-3) hoped Davis could help fill the void left by the graduation of catcher/first baseman Tee Payne, who was second on the team with 33 RBIs. Davis said in the preseason he wasn't going to try to be Payne, even though he learned a lot from the affable team leader. Instead, he said he was going to try to play his role and fill in wherever the Trojans needed him.
Davis has settled in in the No. 5 spot in the order and has produced numbers Payne would be proud of. Through 23 games, Davis was hitting .379 with 20 runs (fourth on team), 25 hits (third), 22 RBIs (second), nine doubles (first), one home run and 13 walks (tied for second). He also was leading the team in on-base percentage (.481) and slugging percentage (.561).
"Wells is swinging the bat good, " New Hope High coach Lee Boyd said. "He is one of those guys we thought could do this, but we weren't quite sure if we would get this from him.
"We hoped somebody would (deliver like Davis has). ... Last year toward the end of the year, Wells really showed he could compete for us. We knew he should come in this year and be a starter. As far as where he was in the lineup, we didn't know. He hit a little cleanup for us and we hit him in the No. 6 hole a time or two, and now he is kind of comfortable in the No. 5 hole."
Through 23 games, Davis recorded 10 of his 11 strikeouts in the first two months of the season. Including the team's 17-6 victory against Columbus on Monday, Davis is riding a nine-game hitting streak. He admitted he didn't expect to put up the statistics he has produced.
"I have worked hard enough that I expect it from myself," said Davis, who talked about changing his approach and trying to swing at good pitches that could help produce results even if he made an out.
Boyd said the team worked with Davis on shortening a swing that at times was too long last season. He feels Davis is sound mechanically at the plate and has shown an ability to drive the ball to all fields. A prime example came in a 13-0 victory against Saltillo when he had a season-high six RBIs. Boyd said Davis drove one ball into the left-center field gap and another into the right-center field gap to break the game open.
Boyd said Davis bolstered his confidence in him by delivering a double on a hit-and-run for another run that added to a 2-0 lead against Oxford.
"He has gotten comfortable in that No. 5 spot," Boyd said. "We shuffled the lineup around a good bit the first three or four weeks of the season, but I think we are kind of comfortable where we are now."
Davis said his effort against sophomore Jason Barber in the victory against Oxford was especially pleasing because it came against a big rival and a pitcher who has given a verbal commitment to Ole Miss. He said he is trying to keep a balance between being aggressive and not trying to do too much at the plate given he is in a key spot in the order.
When you're seeing the ball better, it is a lot easier to play that role.
"When a player gets hot, it feels not easy, but the ball looks like a beach ball," Davis said. "Early in the season, it was like I was swinging at a golf ball half of the time. It feels good now that I am seeing everything pretty well."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.