Air Force coach Mike Kazlausky is a devout baseball man, which is another way of saying he suffers from superstitions. Bradley Haslam, his best player, is roaring along with a 42-game hitting streak, the sixth best in NCAA history behind Robin Ventura’s 58.
But Kazlausky – better known as Kaz – refuses to talk about the streak. Superstition, as Stevie Wonder would say, is in the way.
“You can talk about it,” he says, in total seriousness, “but I can’t. I’m, you know, superstitious. I don’t want to put a hex on the kid.”
At the risk placing a hex on the kid, I’m going to talk about the streak, even though it’s only a slice of Haslam’s staggering performance over the past two seasons.
At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Haslam will seek his 43rd straight game with a hit while the Falcons seek their fourth straight victory. The Falcons tangle with Northern Colorado at Falcon Field.
Haslam, a 6-foot-2 senior third baseman, is a classic academy success story. He played high school football and baseball in his hometown of San Merino, a far-flung suburb of San Diego.
Football, as it has a habit of doing, ravaged his body. Football injuries blurred the view of his possibilities as a baseball prospect. A dislocated knee, suffered while playing quarterback, left him hobbled during senior season. College baseball scouts looked elsewhere.
“I never got to showcase myself too well,” Haslam says. “I didn’t get to put myself out there.”
The lightly recruited Haslam has devoured Mountain West pitching the past two seasons. He hit .408 last season, but he was just warming up. This season, he’s hitting .421 (.456 in MW play and reigning player of the week) with eight home runs. He ranks first nationally with 69 hits.
Oh, and there’s that hitting streak, too.
“I really don’t care too much about it,” Haslam says. “It will probably be pretty cool in 20 years. Right now, I’m trying to enjoy the last games I have to play.”
Haslam is quick to say he enjoys a strong benefit from Kaz’s strategy and the power of Air Force’s batting order. Air Force bats have been mighty this season with the Falcons (19-20 overall, 8-13 in MW) scoring more than 10 runs 12 times. (The pitching isn’t quite so mighty. The Falcons have lost twice when they scored 10 runs.)
This batting might allows Haslam to hit second in the batting order, right before Tyler Jones and Tyler Zabojnik. Jones is hitting .350 in MW play, and Zabojnik ( .421) is enjoying nearly as sensational a season as Haslam. The power behind Haslam leaves opposing pitchers reluctant to walk him.
“It’s nice having guys like that behind you,” Haslam says.
Kaz says interest is rising in Haslam at the professional level. He might get drafted.
If not, Haslam will report in August to flight school in Del Rio, Texas.
“If it does happen, it’s a dream come true,” Haslam says of the draft. “If not, I’m more than happy to go to flight training.”
On Monday, various professors and cadets mentioned the hit streak to Haslam, who didn’t mind.
His coach is ultra-superstitious.
Haslam, free from such an affliction, just wants to swing his bat.