When Mike Hart stepped to the plate for the Lexington Blue Sox against Jared Freni of the Andre Chiefs in the bottom of the seventh inning of game three of the 2015 Intercity League Championship Series, he was faced with one of the most daunting tasks of his career.
Down 12-10 with two outs and a runner on third, Hart had to prolong the game against Freni, the five-time defending ICL Pitcher of the Year, who had not lost to the Blue Sox since 2011. If he failed, the series would go to a fourth game.
From there, according to Hart, it was a blur.
“Going into the inning I realized that I might get the chance to win or tie the game with my at-bat so I was ready for my chance,” he said. “The first pitch was right down the middle and I was right on it, so after that pitch the hype went away and it was just another at bat. I looked for another fastball middle away and two pitches later he gave it to me.”
When he did, he promptly deposited the ball over the left field fence to tie the game and force extra innings, where the Blue Sox would eventually win 15-14 and clinch their 11th ICL crown in their 21-year history.
“Off the bat I knew I made decent contact but it looked to high off the bat to go out. I knew it wasn’t a routine fly so I just watched the left field go back and back and back. I was hoping it would hit the fence or he would miss it so I was thinking of getting on third. When the ball went over I was halfway to second and basically blacked out until I hit home plate.”
Hart put together one of the greatest offensive seasons in ICL History in 2015. Over the course of a 30-game season, he led the league in batting average (.506), hits (39), triples (5), RBIs (22), runs (29), slugging (.818), on-base percentage (.596), and OPS (1.414), en route to his first ICL Championship with the Blue Sox and a likely ICL MVP award.
“As the season continued and the hits continued to add up, I just told myself to stay humble and continue doing what I was doing,” Hart said. “Don’t overswing, don’t overthink, no inside out swings, and see the ball as deep as I can. My confidence just continued to grow. The biggest change I have made this season was my discipline. I set myself up to see fastballs. I worked the count and didn’t chance balls so I forced pitchers to throw to me.”
These numbers may be a little surprising from someone who is trying to make a name for himself as a walk-on on the UMass Amherst baseball team. He hopes that a season like he had with the Blue Sox will earn him some more playing time.
“My coaches never mentioned my summer ball but I feel they have seen the stats and are impressed, but numbers don’t mean much if you don’t back it up,” Hart said. “This fall I will continue to improve and prove myself. I feel confident I will gain a starting job in the outfielder and contribute in the lineup.”
Whether he becomes a regular starter or not, Hart knows that as a redshirt junior he will be tasked with being a leader for the underclassmen.
“I feel I have the responsibility to teach the younger classes both on and off the field,” he said. “I’m still working my ass off but this time for a starting spot not, just a roster spot. I let my game talk and I hope the underclassmen can see me lead by example and hopefully I’ll be back for next year.”