Photo by Darius Horton / MTSU Sidelines
With baseball season in full swing and Conference USA play rolling, this is the point in the season in which many players either hit a wall or continue breaking through. For one Middle Tennessee freshman, he’s content to keep the good times rolling behind the plate.
Knoxville native Jake Hagenow has been a solid addition to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, and he hasn’t let the faster pace of the college game hold him back. He began the season with three consecutive two-hit games, including one against East Tennessee State where he drove in three runs with his two hits.
For the season thus far, Hagenow is hitting at a .357 clip and has shown no signs of hitting the freshman wall. Though he’s had this success, the Farragut High School alum maintains that the speed of the game was what he struggled adjusting to the most when he first made it to Murfreesboro.
“We had a lot of time (to prepare) in the fall with all the scrimmages we played … hitting was the biggest adjustment for me,” Hagenow said. “I’m still getting there, I’m not fully adjusted yet.”
Hagenow was already aware that he would face better curveballs at the college level, but it has been the new movement on fastballs that has been his kryptonite this season.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that curveballs are going to be a lot better, but the thing that kills me now is that fastballs actually move,” Hagenow said. “It’s hard adjusting to really good two-seamers that a lot of guys on our team have. A lot of pitchers that we’ve seen have got really hard fastballs … I’m just trying to adjust to moving fastballs.”
Not only has he done well at the plate, he has also done a solid job at managing the pitching staff when his number has been called. Last Friday, he caught senior pitcher Jake Wyrick for the first time, and it led to Wyrick’s best start of the season.
Overall, Wyrick threw six innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts and only two walks. Normally when a pitcher and catcher work together for the first time, the result isn’t nearly as successful as this one was, and it’s something that Head Coach Jim McGuire was pleased to see.
“(Hagenow) has been really good,” McGuire said. “He handled (Wyrick) well, and that’s the first time he’s caught Jake in a game. His presence behind the plate is good … he’s handled himself well for not (playing) everyday.”
Though they may not have played a game together, the chemistry was there from the first pitch and it was clear to anyone watching that the two worked well together. Hagenow, however, is quick to give all the credit to Wyrick.
“(The chemistry) is awesome … we hit it off instantly,” Hagenow said. “He’s a dominant pitcher. I think that the chemistry had less to do with me starting, and more to do with him having incredible stuff and coming out with confidence.”
To the average observer, the young catcher has handled himself just fine at the plate and has surpassed any preseason expectations. While the numbers support that, Hagenow is still within the mindset of playing hard and adjusting to new wrinkles thrown his way.
“For me, it’s focusing on every pitch, and playing like it’s game seven of the World Series,” Hagenow said. “Someone on a team we played recently tried to bash us and said that we played that game like it was game seven, and we all took that to heart like it was a compliment to us.”
And that is exactly how he has played each game thus far. With a focus on making sure every detail is clean, Hagenow is getting closer and closer to breaking through as a premier talent for the Blue Raiders.
“We love that (mentality),” Hagenow said. “Especially for me since I’m a freshman, mistakes are going to be magnified. I’ve got to try to minimize them.”
The Blue Raiders will be back in action this weekend, as they will travel to Norfolk, Virginia, to take on the Old Dominion Monarchs in a three-game set. First pitch on Friday is set for 5 p.m.
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