BRISTOL - The bats for the Bristol Blues lagged behind the defense earlier this season but they appear to be waking up alongside first baseman Andrew Kendrick’s.
On paper, the season got off to a fast start for the junior out of Youngstown State, who picked up six hits in his first six games of the season. But his average was .260, he had only scored two runs, had struck out seven times and had only driven in two runs, both in his first game.
“I’ve kind of been struggling a bit lately but I have been getting my hits in games,” Kendrick said after a game last week. “Just knowing that I can get the barrel out and get a ball put in play pretty well and get a hit a game is keeping my confidence up pretty good.”
According to Blues manager Pat Riley, Kendrick has been a crucial part of the team, both on offense and defense, this season, even with the limited success.
“He always manages to get a hit here [and] a hit there,” Riley said. “He plays a great first base too. He’s really pretty talented around the bag. He’s a really overall good ballplayer. He can swing it, he does well defensively and he’s got a pretty good arm. I like Andrew a lot. He’s only going to get better.”
But Kendrick snapped out of his one-hit-a-game rut on Wednesday and has not turned back.
Against the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks on Wednesday night at Muzzy Field, Kendrick recorded two hits in four at-bats and scored three runs in the 5-4 win.
“Big night,” Riley said. “He’s been waiting for that. He’s been close. He’s been getting a lot of reps in. He’s been working really hard and I was happy. He got on base a lot tonight. He had a couple hits [and] drew a nice walk. I’m happy for him.”
The explosion was something Kendrick had been waiting for and he was relieved to have it finally happen.
“The way I’ve been playing, I definitely needed that game,” he said. “For sure. That is something I want to build on and move into future games and keep hitting for the team.”
And he has definitely built off of it. In the next three games in the three days after his breakout on Wednesday, Kendrick picked up three hits in eight at-bats (.375 average), scored one run and drove in three runs. All three of those runs came on Saturday, when his only hit of the game was a three-run home run that gave the Blues the three-run lead which eventually gave them the win.
“Hopefully he can keep building off that because I know he’s been working very hard,” Riley said. “The numbers might [not] show it but he’s a much more talented hitter than people might know or think.”
Confidence is something that Kendrick has not been short on this season, even before his bat caught fire. Now that the ball is really popping off of his bat and he is making a difference on the scoreboard, it will be hard to stop him.
“I know when I go up against a pitcher that he has as good a chance as I do,” he said. “That confidence really does help me.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org