A plunk on the elbow knocked Tony Kemp down a peg, but didn’t cool him off.
After spending much of the last two seasons as Vanderbilt’s leadoff hitter, the left-handed batter has found a new home during his first summer on the Cape Cod Baseball League.
Hit by a pitch three weeks ago, Kemp’s elbow swelled up and caused him to miss four games. When he was reinserted in the lineup hitter for the Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers, he landed in an unfamiliar spot in the order — sixth.
But there were no complaints.
“We kept winning games,” Kemp said Tuesday as the Kettleers looked to extend a nine-game winning streak. “I love it. It is the best spot possible for me and this team. I think they are pitching everybody the same one through nine because everybody is a threat, even our nine hole. You can’t take this lineup lightly.”
Kemp, who begins his junior year at Vanderbilt when classes start in three weeks, is hitting no matter where he's batting this summer. Prior to Tuesday, the second baseman led the league in triples (five) and stolen bases (16) and was third in batting (.354).
On Monday, the Franklin native was named the CCBL’s player of the week after batting .362 last week for the Kettleers, who have the league’s best record at 24-12 with the playoffs just more than a week away. During that stretch the 5-foot-6, 165-pounder put together a three-hit game, which included his second homer of the summer, and drove in three runs in another. He leads the Kettleers with 25 RBIs.
Kemp said his new batting stance, which was suggested by Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin before Kemp left for the summer, has made a huge difference.
“It has worked for me,” Kemp said. “My hands are a little bit behind my head and I think that adjustment has led to some success up here. I think it is going to help me hit a lot more line drives and not pop up to left field. It was just a minor adjustment I needed to make.”
Kemp plans to show off his new swing next spring at Hawkins Field after an early hitting slump slowed him in 2011. His batting average dropped from .331 during a Freshman All-American campaign to .261 last spring. He also struck out 42 times in 2012 compared to 32 the year before.
“There were two or three weeks where I hit balls right at people,” Kemp said. “You can’t help that. That’s just baseball. That’s how it goes. As long I’m able to contribute with the team just like I did last year, the year we’ll be fine.”