August 2, 2017
Cotuit – From June 14 until July 16, Thomas Dillard (Ole Miss) recorded just six hits and reached base 11 times. In the past nine games, dating back to July 19, Dillard has sported a .307 average with eight hits and nine walks.
“I really like his swing right now,” Cotuit head coach Mike Roberts said. “Some guys are hot in June. Some guys are hot in July. He has really helped us.”
This Wednesday evening against Y-D (26-16-1), Dillard finished 1-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored, helping to lead Cotuit (22-20-1) to a 6-3 win over the Red Sox. Since his recent surge, the Kettleers are 5-4 and have risen to the second spot in the West Division, just two points behind first-place Falmouth.
Hitting from the middle of the lineup the last two weeks, Dillard now consistently bats from the five-hole, where has a home run and four RBIs during that span.
A big reason for the change is his approach at the plate. Earlier in the season, when Dillard walked into the batter’s box, he was swinging for the fences, letting himself jump out way ahead of pitches to try to induce power.
“I found that I was trying to do too much,” Dillard said. “I’ve been trying to stay back on the ball and hit more line drives.”
A perfect example came in the bottom of the sixth inning this Wednesday. On a 2-1 count, Dillard smoked a line drive down the right field line, wrapping into the corner for a base hit. The left fielder reached second standing up, his second double in the last three days.
But perhaps the way in which he has become the most dangerous at the plate is with his new discipline. Fighting for line drives and keeping his feet steady, rather than digging for home run balls, keeps him back on the plate and makes his eye much more effective.
“Runs are a premium,” Cotuit assistant coach Trey McCall said. “The most base runners, the more pressure you put on a pitcher. Sometimes a walk is just as good as a hit.”
That change in his approach has also greatly decreased his strikeouts. Prior to July 19, Dillard struck out in 46 percent of his at-bats and averaged 1.3 strikeouts per game. Since then, he has just seven strikeouts, and has both more walks and hits than strikeouts.
As a switch hitter, Dillard poses a dangerous threat. Of late, Cotuit’s first five in the batting order read: Griffin Conine (Duke), Greyson Jenista (Wichita State), Terrin Vavra (Minnesota), Michael Toglia (UCLA) and Dillard. The first three hitters are lefty, followed by back-to-back switch hitters in Toglia and Dillard. The order then typically rounds out with righties. But having two switch hitters in the middle to shake up the approach is a huge advantage for Cotuit.
“That really nullifies what an opposing manager can do against us,” McCall said.
Having a power hitter who can hit for contact completely changes how opposing pitchers can attack the lineup, and being a switch hitter gives him an even greater advantage.
Cotuit will play its final regular-season game at Y-D on Thursday at 4:30 p.m., and Dillard may see some time on the mound. With limited pitchers left the team wants to rest the bullpen as much as possible.