(Aaron EISENHAUER ~ email@example.com)
Zak Blemker saw limited opportunities at the plate during the Southeast Missouri State baseball season.
All Blemker needed was a chance to show his ability.
Blemker finished fifth in hitting at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., posting a .417 average for the Plaza Tire Capahas. He was rewarded for his play with a spot as the first baseman on the NBC all-American team.
"We faced a lot of good competition, especially out in Wichita, some of the best pitchers in the country in college baseball out there," said Blemker, who batted leadoff. "It was a lot of fun to show what I could do against them and to play against that level of competition. I've never had more fun playing baseball as I did out there."
Blemker went 2-for-25 for the Redhawks this spring, a .080 average. But he saw plenty of playing time this summer with the Capahas and served as one of the team's hottest hitters. He continued his dominance at the plate when the team headed to the World Series.
"I was very relaxed and having fun playing baseball like I used to," he said. "I just played my own game and just kind of worked on getting better. I just tried to make myself better every day and get prepared for next year at SEMO."
Blemker's feats with the bat for the Capahas is even more impressive because he did it with a wood bat instead of the aluminum used during collegiate play. He said he prefers the wood to aluminum.
"You get to see how much more true the hits are," Blemker said. "You can get away with a lot more aluminum. But with wood, you're not going to get those bloop hits like you would with aluminum. You've got to hit the ball well with wood to make it count. That's what I like about wood. It's more of a true test of a hitter."
Plus Blemker said the level of pitching he faced in Wichita was tougher than the hurlers he saw during the Southeast season. He finished with a .481 on-base percentage in the team's six games.
"We faced a lot of kids who had gotten drafted and we faced pitchers from schools like Wichita State," Blemker said. "I think we faced someone from Texas Tech. We faced a lot of Big 12 schools and just a lot of good competition from the bigger schools around the country."
Capahas manager Jess Bolen wasn't surprised to see Blemker pound the ball for his team in Wichita.
"He was just swinging the bat very well," Bolen said. "He was very aggressive. He was hitting early in the counts. He's a pretty good hitter."
* Phillip Riley led the tournament in strikeouts looking, Bolen said. Riley also was fourth in innings pitched (16), tied for third in strikeouts (16) and tied for first in wins (two).
* Dustin Pritchett finished tied for third in hit by pitches. He was plunked three times.
* Asif Shah tied for the lead in doubles (four).
* Daryl Graham was the unselfish one, finishing tied for first in sacrifice flies (two).