Douglas High’s Gabe Foster turns on a pitch earlier this season. With some changes in his approach at the plate, Foster has seen his batting average jump nearly 200 points this season.
Photo by Ron Harpin.
Douglas High baseball has been forcing others to take notice all season, and rightfully so.
Rarely do you see a program turn around from a 3-16 season to go 16-3 the following year.
As of Friday, the Tigers sit at 17-4. While they have shown vast improvement in all aspects on the diamond, it’s the approach at the plate that is one of the easiest to recognize.
Coach Ryan Gonzalez attributes plenty of the success to attitude and discipline, and as a result Douglas has several hitters in its lineup that have seen their batting average jump by 200 points or more.
In 2021, the Tigers hit .236 as a team. Through 21 games this season, Douglas has a .329 team average.
“Mostly the approach at the plate. We shorten up a lot more and we’re not trying to do it ourselves,” said senior shortstop Gabe Natividad. “We have a lot of trust in our bottom half of the lineup.”
In 19 games last season, Douglas scored 83 runs. This year, the Tigers have plated 175.
It’s not just one or two hitters that have made the difference. Douglas is getting production from all nine hitters this spring.
“It goes with the group of guys, honestly,” said senior catcher and designated hitter Gabe Foster. “We’re always talking after every at-bat. It’s that ‘us’ mentality that we keep talking.”
Natividad and Foster say they’ve made changes to their swings for their final season in orange and black.
“I did change my swing. I worked with a couple of hitting coaches. I’m taking a shorter path to the ball. I was a little long,” said Natividad.
It’s paid off for the senior shortstop, who has seen his batting average rise from .259 a year ago to .452 following a 4-0 win over Galena.
Natividad already has doubled his hit total from last season.
Foster, whose dad, Teddy, is an assistant coach with the team, shifted his stance from open to closed.
“Honestly, a lot,” said Foster of changes in his approach. “Last year I kept my bat on my shoulder and now I try to keep it up.”
This season the senior catcher boasts a .698 slugging percentage compared to a .340 mark from a year ago.
While the two middle-of-the-lineup hitters have certainly done damage at the plate, several other players are creating problems for opponents.
Carter Bleeker has pushed his batting average from .194 to .320 this season while Luke Rodina (.327 average), Gavin Gitthens (.280) and Jason Hernandez (.417) have been steady.
“The majority of the team. We’re all becoming more contact instead of power,” said Foster. “I think that’s become the biggest game changer.”
Other hitters like Ashton Davenport, Thomas Young, Braden Melandow and Jeffrey Peters are making their first appearance on the varsity squad well known.
Davenport, Douglas’ second baseman, has the second most hits on the team this spring and leads the team in doubles with nine.
“We’ve really just been recognizing the fastball early,” said Davenport. “I get up and look for the fastball early and try to jump on it and put a ball in play.”
It’s been a recipe for success as Davenport is second on the team with 19 RBIs.
In the leadoff position, Young has drawn a team-high 14 walks, allowing the middle of the order to knock him in as he also has a team-high 21 runs scored.
With so many runners on base, Douglas has put added pressure on pitchers swiping a league best 81 bases through 21 games this season.
Douglas has seven games left in its regular season and four of those are against league opponents.
Biggest year-to-year improvements at the plate
(Douglas High freshman Jeffrey Peters looks for a sign at third base before stepping into the box. Peters has 13 hits for the Tigers this season, including two doubles, a triple and a home run. / Ron Harpin)
2022 – .452 batting average, .506 on-base percentage, .712 slugging percentage, 33 hits, seven 2Bs, three 3Bs, two HRs, 20 RBIs
2021 – .259 batting average, .310 slugging percentage, 15 hits, three 2Bs, three RBIsGabe Foster
2022 – .419 batting average, .537 on-base percentage, .698 slugging percentage, 18 hits, five 2Bs, two 3Bs, one HR, 13 RBIs.
2021 – .264 batting average, .361 on-base percentage, .340 slugging percentage, 14 hits, four 2Bs, eight RBIsCarter Bleeker
2022 – .320 batting average, .452 on-base percentage, .380 slugging percentage, 16 hits, three 2Bs, 10 RBIs
2021 – .194 batting average, .265 on-base percentage, .258 slugging percentage, six hits, two 2Bs, three RBIsJames Hubbard
2022 – .273 batting average, .429 on-base percentage, .523 slugging percentage, 12 hits, two 2Bs, three HRs, 12 RBIs
2021 – .216 batting average, .275 on-base percentage, .351 slugging percentage, eight hits, three 2Bs, one 3B, five RBIsLuke Rodina
2022 – .327 batting average, .383 on-base percentage, .364 slugging percentage, 18 hits, two 2Bs, six RBIs
2021 – Did not record a hit (0-5)Gavin Gitthens
2022 – .280 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, .360 slugging percentage, seven hits, two 2Bs, four RBIs.
2021 – Did not record a hit (0-7)Jason Hernandez
2022 – .417 batting average, .611 on-base percentage, .417 slugging percentage, five hits, five RBIs
2021 – Did not record a hit (0-1)
*As of April 18