HOMEWOOD — Ending the suspense before it started was about the only thing that Samford freshman Jayden Davis did wrong during his record-breaking afternoon on Saturday.
The second baseman from Cookeville, Tenn. showed up at Joe Lee Griffin Field needing a hit to extend his hitting streak to a Samford baseball best 30 games. He took care of that on his first at-bat, lining a single to right field to break a three-way tie for the program's longest hit streak with Mike Merseco (2008) and Mason Meredith (2009).
Where was Davis' sense of the dramatic?
"It was a really good feeling to get it out of the way in the first at bat," Davis said after the Bulldogs pulled out a 6-5 Southern Conference win over Western Carolina. "It kind of relaxes you for the rest of the game."
Actually, the dramatic part of the streak just might be the streak itself. Davis wasn't exactly tearing it up at the plate when he began on the streak on March 14 with three hits in four trips to the plate against UAB. In the six games prior, he was 3 for 25, including going hitless in eight at-bats the previous weekend at LSU.
"It was tough," Davis said. "Any slump is tough, but you try to put it into perspective. College baseball, everybody is good. You try to not overthink it."
Samford coach Tony David said he didn't consider taking Davis out of the lineup or moving him down in the order. He did consider maybe giving his standout freshman a rest to clear his mind but knew that Davis had the ability to not only escape the slump but be one of the team's top hitters.
"You never know with freshman, or with any of them, but you have an idea," David said. "We said it going in and I said to a lot of people in preseason, we felt like he was a freshman of the year type of hitter. We really felt like that."
The Samford head coach then explained why the coaching staff came to that conclusion.
"He can hit to all fields," David said of Davis, who hit .625 with 60 hits as a high school senior. "He'll let the ball get deep. He's not trying to hit the ball out to left field. He's a gap to gap guy, who can occasionally carry it out of the park. He does have power. But his ability to hit to all fields is going to be the type of guy who put together streaks and hits for average."
Perhaps the best thing about the streak in his overall batting numbers during the 30 games. He's had at least two hits in 16 of the 30 games, with three hits in four of those games. Overall, during the streak, he's had 50 hits and hit .424 to raise his team-leading batting average to .379.
"He's only had a couple times that it came down to that last at-bat," David said. "From very early on in the season, when he gets one, you'll hear in the dugout, 'The guy just hits.' He had some choppers that went through the middle, which you need for this kind of (streak). But, his hard contact percentage is as high as anybody on our team."
On Saturday, he had a pair of singles, scored twice and reached once after being hit by a pitch. He was part of a gutsy effort by the SoCon leading Bulldogs, who clinched the series win with Saturday's victory.
Western Carolina scored four runs in the top of the fourth inning. David gathered his team together before the Bulldogs hit in the bottom of the inning.
"We brought them in to regroup them," David said. "I think I even said, 'We don't need four or five here, let's get a couple runs on the board here.'"
The Bulldogs opened the inning with back-to-back solo home runs by Lucas Steele and Andrew Bennett and tied the game with a two-out single by Kaden Dreier and a two-run home run by Josh Rodriguez.
"Answering right back helps things keep from spiraling out of control," David said.
The winning run came in the seventh inning when Davis was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a double by John Anderson and scored easily on a deep fly ball by Steele. The win kept Samford (27-20 overall, 12-5 SoCon) in first place in the conference.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs look to get a SoCon sweep, and Davis looks to build on his school record hit streak. He said the pressure of keeping the streak alive wouldn't mount with each game, especially if the Bulldogs keep winning.
"Winning is always fun, no matter how you do it," Davis said. "Having a 0 for 4 day, any type of day, it's nice to win. When you're winning, that's all that matters in the long run. Being able to do it both at the same time, makes it really fun. I'm just going to go out there and do my thing and have fun."
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