March 10, 2010 11:17:00 AM
If the East Mississippi Community College baseball team needs a clutch hit, Coach Tony Montgomery wants Drew Vaughan at the plate.
Montgomery has confidence in Vaughan in clutch situations with the way he''s swung the bat this season.
Vaughan, a sophomore second baseman who is a 2008 graduate of Heritage Academy in Columbus, gave Montgomery a reason to have confidence in him when he belted a game-winning, two-run homer against Arkansas Baptist on Feb. 20.
"He''s Mr. Clutch," Montgomery said. "I''m going to tell you right now, he is the guy I want at the plate with the game on the line."
Vaughan is small in stature at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, but he''s been a big hitter for the Lions this season. He''s 23 for 50 for a .460 batting average and he''s knocked in 15 runs in 16 games.
The diminutive Vaughan has shown he has pop in his bat for a player his size as he has eight hits for extra bases, including two home runs.
Vaughan has shown vast improvement from a season ago when he hit below .200 as a freshman.
"I feel like I''m playing a lot better than I did last year," Vaughan said. "I''ve been seeing the ball pretty good. That''s all I can really think of. I''m just seeing the ball and hitting the ball real well."
Montgomery attributes Vaughan''s hitting to benefitting from fall practice, which he didn''t get to go through before his freshman season.
"This fall we got out there and started working on his hitting mechanics," Montgomery said. "He was like a sponge and soaked everything in. The next thing you know he started hitting line drives up the middle. All of a sudden he got a little power and I don''t know where it came from. In 16 games this year, that little rascal is leading the team in hitting at .460 and we''re not talking about singles."
Vaughan is also contributing with his glove. He has had 27 fielding opportunities and he has 221 assists and five errors for a .906 fielding percentage.
He usually starts at second, but recently has filled in at shortstop for injured Brandon Kiewel.
He has also contributed on the base paths. He has stolen five bases in six attempts and is tied for the team lead in steals.
Vaughan has been joined on the team this season by his first cousin, Cole Vaughan.
"It''s great," Vaughan said of being joined by his cousin. "I love him being down here. It''s probably helped out a lot. He and I are roommates. We get along real well. It''s cool having my cousin play on the same college team.
"If I have a bad at-bat, when I come in he''s always the guy that says something to me."
Montgomery said a key for Vaughan is he''s matured from last season. He said a bad at-bat would linger last season and this season he''s able to put bad at-bats behind him.
"When he hit the walk-off (against Arkansas Baptist) I think he made an out the at-bat before," Montgomery said. "I remember saying to him, ''You need to keep your head up because you''re going to have a chance to win the game.'' I didn''t think it would be a home run because I don''t know where his power has come from, but I thought he had a chance to get a hit. We had a man on second and two outs and I was just thinking a hit up the middle. He got a hold of a ball up in the zone."
EMCC is 10-6 going into a home doubleheader against Hibbing Community College on Thursday and is one game shy of equalling last season''s win total when it struggled to an 11-37 record.
Vaughan believes the team is playing well and has a chance to have a good season.
"It took a little while to get our hitting and our pitching on the same level at the same time," Vaughan said. "When our pitchers started pitching good we started hitting good. We''re starting to put it together. Our team is real close. Everybody is close and hangs out with everybody. We''re a lot more of a team this year than we were last year."
Vaughan''s goal is for EMCC to win the MACJC state tournament and he believes the team has the talent at the plate and on the mound to make it happen.
Vaughan hopes to keep hitting like he has to make his goal a reality.
2. Howland likes MSU's non-conference schedule COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Walters column: Prep football season coming closer LOCAL COLUMNS