ROCKINGHAM — One of the most difficult things a baseball player can learn is patience.
Add the fact that the player is in high school and it be can be a chore.
That is what Richmond Senior’s Ethan Baucom has been tasked with this summer.
But this isn’t anything new to the rising senior.
Baucom missed the majority of his sophomore season with an injured foot. He thought the missed time ended up hurting him at the beginning of this season.
“It was the experience of actually playing in a game,” Baucom said. “You can go hit all you want, but there’s nothing like playing in an actual game. You can practice all you want, but being in a game is what matters. Missing all those games — basically the whole season — just puts you that many more games behind everyone else. They saw the ball and you didn’t.”
Baucom started to show what he could do at the plate during the playoffs. He slugged four of his five home runs in the postseason.
“I think he kind of took off in the middle of this year because he missed his whole sophomore year,” Richmond coach Ricky Young said. “There’s nothing like experience especially at this level…seeing good pitching you just need at-bats. There’s no doubt he had the potential, but I think once he got enough at-bats, being able to see the breaking balls and change-ups and being able to adjust to them. The last half of the year he just took off.”
Baucom agreed with his coach that all he needed was in-game experience.
“I didn’t work that much harder, I just got in the game,” Baucom said. “Coach (Young) gave me a chance to play in a game and I started to see the ball again.”
In the 4A championship series, Baucom went 4 of 9 with a home run and three runs batted in. His home run against West Forsyth came leading off the bottom of the seventh to tie Game 2. Richmond would go on to win the contest to force a decisive Game 3.
“The pitching got a little better and I’ve always hit better pitching,” he said. “I got the experience and the pitching kind of adapted to me. It came along there at the end. I started getting hot, started seeing the ball bigger, sitting back better and just getting the fat part of the bat on the ball.”
Baucom added the key to finding his power stroke came when he stopped pressing at the plate. He said once he did that, the home runs came in bunches.
“Just not trying to do too much…just trying to make sure I hit it,” Baucom said. “With my size, the ball is going to go. Just have to get the right part of the bat on it. With my size, the only thing I do is make sure I square the ball up.”
Now Baucom understands he will have to be patient at the plate.
“I know other coaches and other players on the other teams have already realized that,” Baucom said. “Last night (in a summer league game) I got intentionally walked. I guess I’m going to have to be more patient at the plate and take some walks like Bradley (Brown) did this past year. Just get on base. I mean I can run, I can steal bases and let some other players bat me in.
“Not going to get as many fastballs. Going to get a lot of curve balls and a lot of balls off the plate. I’m not going to get as many strikes.”
Young added that it could be a tough transition for not only Baucom, but any young hitter to go from seeing a number of “hittable” pitches in an at-bat to none.
“I have already talked to him about that. He’s going to be in the same boat that Bradley was in,” Young said. “He’s probably going to get one good pitch an at-bat. People are going to pitch around him. He’s just going to have to be patient and if the walk is there, take it. If they throw him a good pitch to hit, you got to be able to hit it. He’ll learn though. He’s a good hitter, it’s going to be an exercise in patience for him.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.