The bolts have caught lightning in the batter’s box.
Air Force scored 17 runs in a victory over Mountain West-leading UNLV on Saturday, pounding four home runs among its 21 hits in a 17-10 win at Falcon Field. What’s more, this has become something resembling the norm.
Over the past nine games, the Falcons are averaging 15.1 runs per game. They’ve homered 27 times in that stretch, including a grand slam from senior Gabriel Garcia on Saturday.
In those nine games, the Falcons are batting .437 (162 for 371), have drawn 42 walks, and have won six times.
“I just feel like we feed off each other,” said Garcia, who collected five hits on Saturday and is now batting .360. “One guy gets a hard hit, and it makes the next guy come up and get a hard hit. So for the past nine games, it hasn’t stopped.”
Some of this has to do with the ballpark, which sits around 7,000 feet at the academy. But the Falcons scored 14 and 10 runs in splitting a pair of games at Texas — the preseason No. 1 — at the beginning of this run. So there’s more to it than altitude.
“I think it’s just guys buying into the process instead of being results-driven, I think that’s been the biggest thing,” said sophomore first baseman Sam Kulasingam, who is hitting .409 with a .481 on-base percentage at the top of the order. “Not always worried about getting hits, but having good at-bats, hitting the ball hard. Just staying with the process and approach has helped us.”
Coach Mike Kazlausky credited hitting coach Jimmy Roesinger with handling the offense, but also noted that nothing is particularly new with the overall approach.
What’s new is much of the lineup, which on Saturday included four sophomores among the top six in the order.
Among the sophomores are Kulasingam, who leads the team in batting average, runs (52), doubles (21) and walks (20). Sophomore third baseman Jay Thomason has a team-high 13 home runs and .653 slugging percentage. Sophomore right fielder Jake Greiving has 39 RBIs in 39 games. And, of course, there’s preseason All-American Paul Skenes, who holds a .395 on-base percentage and is tied for second on the team with nine home runs while putting up an All-Mountain West season on the mound with a 7-2 record and 2.59 ERA.
“We have five or six sophomores who are putting up great numbers,” Garcia said. “The future of the Air Force Academy is in great hands, for sure.”
The immediate future would benefit from a continuation of this offensive explosion. The Falcons (21-22, 9-11 Mountain West) are in fifth place, 1½ games behind No. 4 Fresno State with 10 conference games remaining. Only the conference’s top four advance to the tournament.
Kazlausky knows the team can control its own fate, and he likes that proposition given what he’s seen of late — including 37 runs and 46 hits in two wins over UNLV (29-15, 17-6) on Friday and Saturday.
“The guys are just playing with a great level of confidence,” he said.