Trio of strong lefties dominates top of lineup, challenges pitchers

Throughout the season, baseball’s batting lineup evolved so that the crowd saw the same starting four players lead the team during the first inning.

Beginning with three left-handed hitters, each player had been carefully selected by his abilities to play a specific role in the lineup.

Senior Michael Nassoiy, the starting center fielder, batted first in the lineup.

Nassoiy, a third year varsity player for Marshall, undoubtedly set the offensive tone for the rest of his team.

Recognizing this pressure, he took the outlook that “failure is not an option.”

Despite his do-or-die attitude, Nassoiy maintained a calm approach with only one goal in mind: to get on base. “I do anything I can to get on base to start the game off right,” Nassoiy said. “I’m not looking to get a homerun or even a double; I just need to be on base.”

While he does not believe he was the fastest base runner on the team as the leadoff hitter often is, Nassoiy had the confidence necessary to get the first hit of a game.

In every game he pitched in the 2012 season, first-team all-district player Mitchell MacKeith, senior, shut the other team down. Going undefeated, MacKeith won all eight of the games he pitched.

Offensively, MacKeith was the second batter in the lineup and has a special understanding of what he was up against.
“You really have to analyze and read [the pitcher] during warm-ups and see what they’ve got so you’re fully prepared,” MacKeith said. “I have the opportunity to watch [Nassoiy] bat before me, which is always helpful.”

As the second batter, MacKeith’s goal was to move the first batter into scoring position at second or third base.

MacKeith remarked that “the ability to bunt is crucial because it easily moves the first batter around the bases.” A four-year varsity player, MacKeith has an advantage over other players in the district after seeing more varsity pitchers than anyone else on the team.

“I’ve learned over the years how important it is to be confident and relaxed,” he said.

MacKeith has been recruited to pitch Division I baseball at Radford University.

Commonly known as the best hitter in the line-up, the third batter usually has a high batting average and shortstop Kent Blackstone, senior, did not disappoint.

With a .410 batting average, first-team all-district player Blackstone has hit four homeruns and three triples thus far in the season. This year, Blackstone has tried a more mental approach to the game.

“I’ve really had to remind myself to be patient and visualize what I’m going to do,” Blackstone said. “I have to tell myself to react to inside pitches to ensure I see the ball deep.”

Like the second batter, Blackstone’s goal is to move runners on base, aiming for scoring runs with big hits.

“I’m supposed to square the ball up to get runners in,” Blackstone said. “If I can’t get anyone in, my goal is to get on base for our cleanup hitter.”

Blackstone has committed to play Division I baseball next year at New Mexico State University.

While most of the starting players were seniors, Kekoa Yamaguchi represented the class of 2013 as the starting first baseman and cleanup hitter. Receiving a second-team all-district title, Yamaguchi has one of the simplest views of his teammates on his responsibilities at bat.

“I see the ball, I hit the ball,” he said. “I keep my mind clear.”

If his three teammates before him do their jobs, Yamaguchi’s goal is to bring runners home as one of the most powerful hitters on the team.

Yamaguchi has also managed to steal home twice this season, a rarity in itself.

Both the third hitter and often Yamaguchi have the responsibility to “keep the game going” when there are two outs on the board as they go up to bat.

With each of the first four players in the lineup receiving first or second-team all-district titles, the Statesmen baseball program put its best players forward to start every game. Ending the season with an overall 11-6 record, the team has surpassed its goal of merely a winning season as it moves onto the district tournament.