The whiffs added up quickly for Riley Reynolds during fall workouts.
“There was a point in the fall when I struggled hitting a little bit,” he said. “It felt like I struck out 15 times in a row.”
Since the start of the season, though, things could not have been more different.
In fact, Vanderbilt’s freshman second baseman has struck out a total of just 15 times in 35 games, which is second-fewest among the team’s starters and just one indicator of his ability to put the bat on the ball consistently.
Entering this weekend’s series against Alabama, he has an 18-game hitting streak, the longest by a VU player this season and the longest current streak in the Southeastern Conference. He has seven of his team’s 17 sacrifice bunts and his .350 batting average is third-best among Commodores’ starters. Plus, he has hit into just one double play.
Then there’s the times he makes contact that don’t show up in the statistics.
“He gets a lot of six, seven, eight-pitch at-bats which demoralizes a pitcher and helps us when we’re trying to have a big inning,” coach Tim Corbin said. “You’re not going to see the home runs and stuff, but that’s not him. He’s a contact guy who gets on base and fouls off a ton of pitches.”
The conference’s longest hitting streak of the season is 23 games – also by a freshman, Alabama outfielder Taylor Dugas who leads The Tide with a .404 average coming into the three-game series at Hawkins Field (6 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday).
However, Dugas showcased his hitting ability immediately and after fall workouts was rated one of the SEC’s top six freshmen by SEBaseball.com.
Reynolds, who is from Lee’s Summit, Mo., distinguished himself only in that he had Vanderbilt’s best fielding percentage during the offseason workouts, which helped provide the opportunity to play in the spring. That has not changed – he has committed five errors in 78 chances for a .958 fielding percentage,
“I just came in and did what I thought I should do,” he said. “It’s worked out so far. I didn’t have any big expectations or anything. I just hoped I’d come in and play and contribute to the team.”
At this point, it looks as if he will be a long-term contributor.
“I can’t tell you that in the fall I thought he was going to play right away,” Corbin said. “I felt like we were going to play other people.
“He’s kind of a grow-on-you player. The more you see him the more he grows on you and you understand his value to a team. Right now, I can’t see the lineup without him in there. He’s a very solid player.”
One who makes a lot of solid contact.