We knew coming into the season that Ole Miss was going to be reliant on sluggers like Colby Bortles and J.B. Woodman to replace the power numbers of Sikes Orvis. That duo has done a fine job so far, slapping a combined eight extra-base hits, two of which left the yard. What we didn't expect, however, is for some of the smaller guys to start knocking dingers. Over the last 10 games, the Rebs have gotten two homers from Cameron Dishon and one apiece from Errol Robinson and freshman Ryan Olenek, a trio that previously had a combined total of three homers.
Now, I'm not saying these three can't be power hitters or they aren't capable, but it's just not exactly their strong suit. Dishon is your prototypical nine hitter who won't wow you with stats but can get the bunt down and knows his role. Robinson is a use-all-fields-type of hitter who possesses quick hands and hits for average. And Olenek is a freshman with huge upside who is still growing into his body.
So how are these three dudes doing this? Let's take a look.
Staying through the baseball is key
Each one of these three guys weighs under 200 pounds, but baseball isn't just about size and power—it's about timing and precision. These three are very good at staying through the baseball at the point of contact. Well what the hell does that mean, Zach? It simply means that once they've made contact, they continue their swing, follow-through and finish before ever thinking of dropping the bat and heading towards first base. This is the difference between a seeing-eye single through the four-hole, an extra-base hit in the gap or even a dinger that warrants a thirst-quenching shower of suds.
As you can see in the image above, Olenek stays through the baseball, hitting "all three balls" and driving it into the outfield. The term "hitting all three balls" is a widely-used term by coaches and instructors when they place three baseballs in front of the plate to simulate that you hit each one as you follow through your swing. If you don't hit all three and stop after contact, you're not going to get many showers in Right Field.
A balanced swing = a good swing
Another component of getting every ounce of power in a swing is balance. If you are taking a whale of a hack at the dish and falling onto the plate during the follow-through, chances are you're either whiffing and looking like an idiot. Furthermore, not maintaining balance at the plate will lead to pulling off the ball and either just missing it. That can be the difference between popping one up or sending it over the fence.
If you take a look at Dishon's swing here, you can see that not only does he stay through the baseball all the way through the hitting zone, but he also maintains a healthy balance at the plate. This ensures he is using the top and lower half of his body and they are working together to guarantee that you are getting plenty of barrel on the ball.
Ya gotta keep the top hand honest
Some folks subscribe to the school of thought that releasing the top hand and finishing high allows the bat head to maintain acceleration, allowing for more power. I'm in the other school of thought: I think that that releasing that top hand means you lose control of the bat head before it exits the entire hitting zone. That means you lose power instead of gaining it.
As you can see, Errol maintains the honesty with the top hand and follows through with both hands on the bat. This is where hitting all three balls comes back into play as well. If you keep that top hand firm through your swing, you can continue accelerating the barrel through the hitting zone and give the kids in the left field terrace something to chase after.
Obviously there are other elements to a great baseball swing that we didn't cover today. And these bros work their asses off in the weight room in the off-season to build strength. But, what baseball usually boils down to is repetition, repetition and more repetition. Maintaining a consistent swing will always yield similar results. The hits may not always fall, but sometimes they fall into the lap of of someone not paying attention 385 feet away from home plate.