This offseason, Head Baseball Coach Danny Hall recruited and signed 17 freshmen to replace the nine starters that the team lost the previous season. It was one of the largest recruiting classes Tech baseball had ever seen, and although the team is young, it still boasts a 5-3 record.
“I go back to my first year in 1994, when we had a great team and played for the National Championship. There were a lot of freshmen that year, but we were able to survive the rigors of the season…we have some new faces [this season], but the expectations are extremely high. We want to play well as [we] go through the season, but [we] realize that there are going to be bumps in the road,” Hall said.
Perhaps not a single one of those freshman has had as great of an impact as center fielder Kyle Wren.
Wren has done it all for the Jackets. He had started off his college career with an eight-game hit streak, he has started every game at center field and his .429 average is highest on the team.
Wren also has more tools in his arsenal other than good contact. He is said by many to be the fastest player on the team, and his timely hitting has also led to a team-high in RBIs.
“[Wren] has been a great table-setter for us this season. He has played extremely well [and] has not played like a freshman. Not only has he set the table, but he has also gotten some key two-out RBIs already in the season and made a great catch here on Sunday. He is a very, very good player,” Hall said.
Wren has already put up great numbers this season, but what makes them even better is that Wren has been putting them up from the leadoff position.
At leadoff, Wren does not necessarily have to worry about trying to hit home runs or moving runners over. His goal is simply to get on base in anyway possible. This will allow the home run hitters in the middle of the lineup to hopefully knock him home. Wren has shown that he knows how to hit from the leadoff spot, having hit there at Landmark High School and posting a .541 on base percentage and scoring eight runs.
Wren’s strong plate discipline has allowed him to draw a team-high five walks and constantly put pressure on opposing pitchers to throw the right pitch.
“I have been blessed with a great [batting] eye, and so at the leadoff position, if they throw me my pitch then I’m going to hit it, but if it is not my pitch then I can lay off of it,” Wren said.
Hall could see the potential in Wren before the season started and put Wren in the leadoff position for the season’s opening game against Kent State. Wren led off that game with a hit, and he proceeded to get two more before the game was over.
“I was excited. I had no idea that I would be starting, and it being the first game, the coaches did not tell us anything. I was pretty confident that I would [eventually] be somewhere in the outfield, but I also did not know if I was going to bat leadoff or ninth,” Wren said.
Maybe it was his not-thinking-and-just-playing philosophy that sparked such a great first game for Wren, but whatever it was, Wren has carried his opening day momentum throughout the season. Wren had at least one hit in his first eight games of his collegiate career and already has five multi-hit games.
“I don’t think about [the hitting streak]. I’m just happy to be where I am at right now: freshman year and hitting in the .400’s. That is just something that I am very happy with because if I were to look forward before the season, I would definitely not see [myself] having this great of a start to the season,” Wren said.
Although Wren has been a star so far in his rookie campaign, he did have to overcome some growing pains on the field in addition to the amount schoolwork that every freshman faces.
Wren had to find a way to hit a 90-mile per hour fastball when all he had faced before that was a low-80s pitch. To this end, Wren used batting practice against his teammates to adjust to the speed of the collegiate game.
“The great thing about coming [to Tech] is that you get to face such good pitching like [sophomore pitcher] Mark Pope and [sophomore pitcher] Buck Farmer that it is almost like you are getting better experience in inter-squad then you are facing on the other team,” Wren said.
This is a very different Tech team than last year’s power-hitting squad, but if the Jackets can learn to use Wren to play small-ball, then they will have a chance to replicate what the Jackets were able to accomplish in 1994.