Compiling 50 hits in a high school baseball regular season is quite an accomplishment.
Having 60 percent of those hits go for extra bases? That’s the making of a record-breaking season.
Captain Shreve catcher Bryant Bowen has done just that, recording a program-record 23 doubles to go with his seven home runs heading into Thursday’s play.
Bowen is batting 50-of-102 (.490) in a season where Bowen’s average has usually been above .500, adding an area-high 37 RBIs.
“Considering it broke a draftees’ record by a guy that could smash a little bit and that it was held for (nearly a decade), it means a lot,” Bowen said. “Just to hit the ball hard that many times is big, and to be able to call them doubles is even bigger.
“I’m proud of that record and am very humbled by it.”
The old Captain Shreve doubles record was 22, held by MLB draft pick (39th round) Lance West.
Bowen, a senior who is a Southern Miss signee, sits in the heart of a Gators’ lineup that is averaging nearly seven runs per game.
Bowen and Co. struggled a season ago as a young Captain Shreve squad won just 12 games, but the 16-15 Gators have matured into the No. 24 team in Class 5A heading into this week’s series against Southwood which began Thursday.
“Bowen has produced for four years, but now he’s at a whole other level and maintained that (for an entire season),” said Shreve coach Todd Sharp. “I’ve never seen somebody hit at such a high level for this period of time.
“People will stop what they are doing to finish his at-bat, and the concession stand isn’t packed when he’s up there. He’s also doing great against his (college-level) peers. Baseball will humble everybody at some point, but right now, he’s doing well and seeing a lot of success.”
As a junior, Bowen chased pitches out of the zone as opponents could afford to pitch around him with young Gators throughout the lineup.
With a more experienced lineup and a patient Bowen, opposing pitchers are gleaning the same results.
“I’m swinging at pitches that are hittable, and I’m not trying to hit the home run every time,” Bowen said. “Especially being a starter for four years, other guys know my tendancies, so I had to change my approach to hitting pitches that are hittable and not just picking that one pitch out.
“That’s opened up everything.”
Bowen is also getting a preview of how he’ll pitch with college prospect Justin Skeesick hitting in front of him. Skeesick has a team-high 30 runs scored while hitting .287 with three home runs.
“That’s everything because they kind of pitch (Skeesick) the same,” Bowen said. “If I see a curve (in an 0-0 count) or a curve (in a 1-0 count) to him, then I can expect it. If it’s there, I’m swinging, if not, I’ll take it. Everyone has stepped up … and set the tone after just 12 wins last year.”
Six other Gators are hitting at least .300 this season with Cameron Jacobs (.376 with 26 RBIs), Harrison Lawrence (.367 with 29 runs scored) and Tanner Johnson (.356 with 26 RBIs) leading the way.
“Other guys have bought into how we approach a game offensively,” Sharp said. “It helps when people are on base, which changes a defense.
“The fact that Bowen is getting on, the guys hitting behind usually have a runner on second (base), and it opens it up a bit. Bowen makes it look easy, so the rest of the guys have confidence that they can hit even a good starting pitcher. So much of high school baseball is a mind-set and believing you can, and right now they believe they can score runs.”
The majority of players didn’t play when a No. 19 Gators team lost in the first round, but Bowen said he’ll offer similar advice that he’s put into action this season.
“I’ve been staying within myself and not trying to do too much all of the time,” Bowen said. “When we made the playoffs my sophomore year … we tried to do a little too much in the first round.
“We had some adversity with a couple of rain delays that year … but the big thing is to not to press and stay within yourself. Play the game the way you know how.”