Josh Anthony knew the ball he hit in the bottom of the third inning Friday night was gone as soon as it left the bat. It was a true no doubter, one that exited the confines of Plainsman Park at the outfield’s deepest point and struck the base of the post supporting the scoreboard in left center field.
Still, Auburn’s third baseman watched the ball travel through the air until he could no longer see it behind the wall. When you haven’t hit a home run in 39 games to start the season, you make sure it’s gone.
Seeing it finally happen for him, Anthony said, was “a relief.” He had arrived at Auburn in the fall with his sights and coach Butch Thompson’s set on becoming a middle of the order force for the Tigers jerseys. In his last season at Western Oklahoma State College, he slugged 25 home runs. The Atlanta Braves jerseys drafted him in the 16th round of the MLB Draft last June.
For whatever reason, though, it just hadn’t clicked for him on the Plains. Until this week, that is.
Anthony mashed Kennesaw State and Arkansas pitching over a torrid four game stretch. The third baseman went 11 for 16 (.688), hitting a home run and three doubles, driving in nine runs and scoring six more. He went 9 for 12 against the Razorbacks alone, even stealing a base.
In a span of four consecutive multi hit games, Anthony increased his batting average 39 points from .259, the lowest it had been since Feb. 19, to .298, the highest it has been since March 19.
So it should come as no surprise that he was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday. With Anthony’s help, the Tigers jerseys are now a consensus top 10 team, moving up to No. 7 in the D1Baseball Top 25 and No. 5 in the Baseball America poll after taking two of three from Arkansas.
“I just was not swinging at pitches I’m supposed to be swinging at,” Anthony said. “Now that I’m actually keying in and having my approach, it’s huge.”
The start of Anthony’s Auburn career was not necessarily bad, but it was quiet. Locked into the three, four or five spot in the lineup every day, Anthony hit .319 over his first 19 nonconference games. He just didn’t have the power or run producing numbers he has become accustomed to when he drove in 84 runs as a sophomore in junior college, totaling five extra base hits and 13 RBIs.
When SEC play began, even that pace slowed considerably. Through his first 15 conference games entering this weekend’s series against Arkansas, Anthony was 10 for 52 (.192) with only three doubles and three RBIs.
When the Tigers jerseys exploded for 16 runs at Samford two weeks ago, Anthony was one of only two starters to not record a hit or a walk. He finished 0 for 5.
“We’ve cheap mlb jerseys china been waiting months and months,” Thompson said with a smile on Friday. “Him getting his first home run? I was like ‘Thank you, Lord, for letting him get that.'”
Even through the less than stellar start at the plate, though, Thompson said Anthony maintained an “unbelievable attitude.” Perhaps more importantly, he has played a stellar third base: Over 129 chances in 40 starts, the junior has committed just seven errors, which is good for a .946 fielding percentage.
“We’ve gotten a much more premium defender than we ever thought,” Thompson said earlier this season. “All we ever heard was bat, bat, bat, and we wind up getting this guy that’s just played an unbelievable third base. When the ball is in between, he can take a drop step. His arm is true and accurate. He comes and gets it. I don’t think they told me enough about how good his defense is.”