According to coach Skip Wilson, senior shortstop Jason Connor “just plays and goes about his business.”
“I’ve never been much of a talker,” Connor said. “I just lead by example. I don’t think [the team] really expects a lot of vocals from me.”
The baseball team may not expect much out of Connor’s mouth, but they said they expect quite a bit from his bat.
Connor hit .323 while leading the Owls with eight home runs, 54 runs batted in, and ten steals last season. This year, the Owls (4-5 are expecting their shortstop to replicate those numbers and help carry the team into the postseason.
“If our team is to go any place in the conference, we’ll need his bat [to hit] with power and average,” Wilson said.
As the No. 3 hitter, Connor said he understands his importance to the lineup.
“If I get on base, I’ve got a good chance of scoring,” he said. “There are good hitters behind me.”
One of those hitters, senior first baseman Mike Weckenman, said it was important for Connor and the other hitters in the middle of the lineup to hit well.
“It sets the pace for everyone else,” Weckenman said.
Connor got off to a scorching start in 2004. He opened the season with a 12-game hitting streak and hit safely in 19 of the first 20 games.
One notable effort during that stretch came at Navy, where Connor collected three hits, a homer and five RBI.
“He always seems to drive in that big run when we need it most,” Weckenman said. “He always comes through in the clutch.”
Through the first nine games of this season, Connor has struggled. He is hitting .233 with only three RBI. But he showcased his capabilities against Boston College, when he collected three hits.
“It’s started off a little slow,” Connor said. “It’s the beginning of the season.”
Connor had similar problems hitting for average two years ago as a sophomore, when he hit just .247 but finished second on the team with 33 RBI. He attributed his jump in production last season to experience and learning the league’s pitchers.
“He’s gotten older and stronger,” Wilson said. “He’s gained experience. He’s gotten to see more pitchers.”
Connor’s improved offensive numbers landed him a spot on Baseball America’s Preseason All-Atlantic Ten Conference team.
Although Connor said he does not worry about earning such awards, Weckenman said the it displays Connor’s work ethic.
“His attitude and dedication are shown through the award,” Weckenman said. “He’s always in the gym and always working on his swing.”
Connor has also been working hard to improve his defense. He committed 31 errors last season, tying him for the most ever in a season by an Owl.
“I hopefully improved a lot,” he said. “I’ve been focusing mostly on defense.”
That work is beginning to show. He helped turn a triple play in a loss to BC last week.
Connor said he was excited about the play, and about what the young season could bring for him and the team.
“I’m looking to have a good year,” he said. “We should have a lot better team than we did last year. We should win the Atlantic Ten.”
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.