A little more than a month ago, Joe Loftus adjusted his stance in the batter’s box.
Last weekend, the sophomore outfielder stood a little taller than anyone else in the Southeastern Conference when he led Vanderbilt to a series victory at LSU. Loftus had six hits (four of them for extra bases), seven RBIs and five runs scored as the Commodores won two of three against the reigning national champion.
On Monday, he was named the SEC’s Player of the Week.
“The last month, he’s seemed to get better and better and he’s more comfortable,” coach Tim Corbin said. “He’s aggressive, he’s confident … and he’s dangerous.
“Early in the season he was a little tentative.”
Loftus came to the plate in the top of the eighth inning on Sunday when tentative was not an option. He delivered a two-out, two-run single that broke a 2-2 tie and sent the Commodores on to a 4-3 victory in the deciding game of the series. Vanderbilt also won 6-2 on Saturday after having lost 16-15 in 10 innings on Friday.
“I was just looking for an off-speed pitch down the middle of the plate (in the eighth inning Sunday),” he said. “That’s definitely what I got. I just tried to put it in play.”
He had a career-high five RBIs on Friday, when he fell a single short of the cycle. On Saturday, he was 1-for-4 with a run scored.
His seven RBIs in the three-game series were one fewer than he had in the first 19 conference contests combined this season. He moved to within one of Aaron Westlake for the team lead in RBIs during SEC play.
He now has 15 hits in his last 13 games after having spent much of the season tinkering with his stance. He has settled on an approach in which he lifts his lead leg and sets it back down as he activates the swing.
“Finally, I found a good stance … (and) I see the ball real well,” Loftus said. “… I started out with just a stride, and my timing was a little off at the beginning of the year. I switched to a leg kick … and it worked for a little bit.
“Just picking up (my front leg) and putting it down … keeps me back on the off-speed pitch and lets me get my hands through on the fastball. … I’m going to keep going with it for right now.”
Approximately 1,300 tickets will be given away for Tuesday’s game with Louisville (6 p.m., Hawkins Field) beginning 8:30 a.m. at the VU ticket office.
The contest will serve as a fund-raiser for flood relief in Middle Tennessee. Monetary donations, as well as those of food and supplies will be accepted throughout the contest.
“The purpose of why we’re playing – going beyond the win and loss of the game and doing something for the community … it’s a situation we can turn into more than just an athletic event,” Corbin said. “It’s a situation we can turn into a charitable, giving event for people who are in rough shape.”