Jenkins' switch has been a big hit

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Watching Bo Jenkins swing from the left side, you would never guess that he only began switch-hitting in the fall.

That's how impressive a transformation Southeast Missouri State's senior second baseman has made from being purely a right-handed hitter --and it has helped ignite a marked improvement in his batting average.

As the Redhawks (11-16, 2-4) enter a three-game Ohio Valley Conference series at Samford (7-19, 2-4) -- there will be a 1 p.m. doubleheader today and 1 p.m. contest Sunday -- Jenkins has his average a full 40 points higher than where it ended last year.

"What he's done, after never hitting left-handed before, has been pretty remarkable," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said.

With the majority of pitchers Southeast faces being right-handers, Jenkins has received many more opportunities from the left side. Despite his three-game skid, he is still hitting .281 left-handed (16 of 57) after being well above .300 recently, and also has improved from the right side at .300 (6 of 20).

"I think switch-hitting has really helped me out," Jenkins said.

Although Jenkins was impressive defensively last year and showed power with six home runs, 11 doubles and 33 runs batted in, he was not very happy about that .246 average. So he approached Hogan in the fall about taking a stab at switch-hitting.

"Right away, he had a very solid approach, with a good, level swing. But I told him it will be one of the hardest things you've ever done," Hogan said.

"I think where it really helps is I'm not as hard on myself from the left side, because I'd never done it before. And I know I can hit from the right side, which is why last year was kind of frustrating."

Added Hogan: "Last year he struggled so much from the right side, it hurt his confidence. I don't know why that [switch-hitting] didn't happen earlier in his career, but I think it's really helped him."

While showing an improved stroke at the plate -- from both sides -- Jenkins has continued to excel defensively, with just three errors and numerous highlight-reel plays.

"Bo is a super talented kid," Hogan said. "He's A-plus defensively, and he's just playing really good baseball."

Momentum to Alabama

The Redhawks hope that momentum carries over into this weekend's series in Birmingham, Ala., as they try to move up the OVC standings. Southeast and Samford are tied for seventh place among 10 teams.

"It was frustrating. We were losing so many close games. We just couldn't get it done," said senior center fielder Frankie Montiel, Southeast's leading hitter at .356 who is also first in RBIs with 24 and doubles with 10. "But to win two games in a row in extra innings, you have to feel it.

"I think we can really get on a roll now. We've got a lot of conference games left, and we need to make a move."

Said Hogan: "Hopefully, we're headed in the right direction now. It's a big weekend."

Also hitting above .300 for the Redhawks are senior shortstop Ernie Bracamonte (.327), who has been on a tear in recent games, and senior third baseman Eric Horstman (.318). Southeast has a team average of .271.

Samford, hitting just .255 as a group, is led by junior outfielder Justin Worthington (.338).

Southeast freshman right-hander Joey Evans (4-3) is third in the OVC in earned-run average at 2.87, and he ranks first in strikeouts per nine innings, having fanned 39 in 37 2/3 innings.

The Bulldogs' top pitcher is sophomore right-hander Joe Edens (3-2, 3.86).

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