(Photo via SoConSports.com, seen here)

The Mercer Bears baseball team is having a good season to this point, going 26-13 overall, and 6-6 in Southern Conference play. The latter record shouldn’t downplay the way the season has gone to this point, as the Bears came streaking out of the gate.

Heading into the 2018 campaign, Mercer notched one player in one of the NCBWA’s Pre-Season All-American squads, catcher JT Thomas on the First Team. But on a team where there’s so much offensive prowess to show off, there’s been one player making the most noise: outfielder Trey Truitt.

Through 151 at-bats, Truitt has accumulated a batting average of .384, 10 home runs, 31 RBIs, a .656 sluggin percentage, a .469 OBP, which results in a very impressive OPS of 1.125. Truitt was named Southern Conference Player of the Week March 19, and also earned the honor of being named Southern Conference Player of the Month for March. In addition to his conference recognition, Truitt also earned national attention, being named Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week for March 19 as well.

Teddy Cahill, of Baseball America, had high praise for Truitt as we approach the MLB Draft:

With such acclaim and praise, it can be hard to stay focused, especially with the lingering potentiality of this year’s MLB First Year Player Draft, but Truitt’s remained grounded throughout the season. When asked if it was difficult to remain focused, Truitt responded, “Not at all. Knowing this could potentially be my last season ever playing baseball, I’m just trying to enjoy it and have as much fun as I can.”

Indeed, he is making the most of this year, being one of the top producers in almost all offensive categories in the SoCon. Truitt ranks third in average, first in runs scored, and first in home runs. He’s also a top-10 RBI producer. Among his teammates, he’s first in average, first in home runs, second in RBIs, first in runs scored, first in SLG%, and first in OBP, among qualifying candidates.

There’s no doubt Truitt’s had great success in the box, and so I wanted to know what the slugger’s approach was.

“I focus on the middle-outside part of the plate, which helps me stay through the ball. I’m looking for something hard, ideally, but if I get the offspeed pitch I can do damage with, I’ll go for it.” It’s a mantra so commonly featured among great hitters: expect the hard stuff, react to the soft stuff, and he’s done that well.

It isn’t just offense Truitt’s excelled at during his time at Mercer. To this point in 2018, he’s recorded a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000. Here’s a clip of Truitt in right field in a game against Furman during the Southern Conference tournament last May:

When questioned about his goals for this season, Truitt mixed in a response about how he wants to perform within the Southern Conference, and how that goal is what will propel him moving forward with his career, saying, “A goal I set for myself this season is to be the best player in the Southern Conference. If I focus on being the best player I can be, instead of focusing on the draft, then I feel that will put me in the best position for [the June Draft] when the time comes.”

This answer seemed to show maturity in Truitt, acknowledging the importance of performing in the moment, and not placing too much emphasis on the future. Often times, and at such young ages, athletes may begin to look forward to the next thing, but Truitt seems to understand the importance of now, and not getting caught up in what’s to come.

Since Truitt is a leader in so many offensive categories, I was curious which one(s) he felt was the most important. He informed me that he couldn’t decide on just one, ultimately deciding on runs scored and RBIs. “As a player, I believe that the value you bring to your team is truly based on how many runs you scored that day, and how many runs you drove in,” Truitt stated, before adding, “…because that lets your coach or [your] organization know that you’re worth ‘x’ amount of runs, and the higher the number of runs, the more you’re worth.”

Here’s an example of Truitt producing one of the stats he’s deemed important. In the clip, Mercer trails ETSU 4-3 in the ninth inning with two outs. Truitt lines a 1-2 pitch that looks to be an off-speed pitch left up in the zone, up the middle for an RBI single, tying the game 4-4. This is a game the Bears went on to win 8-4, securing a series sweep in Johnson City.

Truitt stressed the immense amount of preparation it takes during the offseason to prepare for these types of moments. When asked how much work goes into a typical offseason, Truitt simply said, “A ton.” He went on to explain, “That’s the time when you can really grind without worrying about being too sore for a game or wearing your body out for the long season… It’s the building time.”

All of the work Truitt has put in this season has shown on the field. With so many strengths, it can be hard to narrow it down to one, but when prompted, Truitt gave a short and simple response, “My ability to hit for power to all fields.” It shows, as Truitt’s 10 home runs positioned himself as the first player in the conference to reach double digits in that category this season.

As for what Truitt would be doing if he wasn’t busy dedicating most of his time to baseball? “[I’d be] working on my future career. Creating a plan with a goal at the end of it [and] setting myself up to be as successful as I can be in the business world.”

If Truitt’s success on the field translates into the business sector, then he’ll likely experience great achievements in both careers. As for now, Truitt plans on sticking to baseball. In order to do his part for a successful Bears team, he says it comes down to one thing, “Focusing on my role to the team by being a senior leader.” It’s worked out so far. Mercer took two out of three over the weekend at Western Carolina before knocking off the number one team in the nation, the Florida Gators, in Gainesville.

Brett Barnett

Staff Writer for CBBSN.

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