College baseball: Willie Pratt eager to get into groove at the plate for Utah Valley University
When Willie Pratt squares up a ball, it usually finds a glove and not the grass so far this season.
His bat has been blind to seeing-eye singles.
But even though Pratt's bat still is heating up, there is a reason he is the first name Utah Valley University coach Eric Madsen writes down on his lineup card.
Pratt makes things happen.
The sampling size still is too small for Madsen to be concerned. Pratt is hitting .146 through 12 games this season but has an on-base percentage of .340.
"He'll get going. He's a good kid," Madsen said. "He's extremely athletic. That was our draw to him. He can run, he has a good arm and he's really athletic."
Pratt went 2 for 5 and drove in a run in a 6-4 win over Sacramento State last week. Hitting is all about streaks, and it's just a matter of time before he gets hot.
"I'm doing my best to get on base," he said. "I've gotten off to a little bit of a slow start, but I'm still working on trying to stay within the approach that Coach Madsen wants us to use. I'm still hitting some balls hard with nothing to show for it, and that can be frustrating. But I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself. I'm just trying to see the ball well."
Pratt spent most of last season batting in the eight spot, where he was incredibly productive. He batted .333 and drove in 50 runs. He was even more effective with men on base, batting .379, and that jumped to .750 when the bases were loaded.
Pratt made a name for himself at Taylorsville High School, where he was a fixture at shortstop for the Warriors. He then took his game to Southern Idaho for a year before taking time off to serve an LDS Church mission.
When he returned, he walked on at UVU, where his versatility has helped keep him in the lineup. He's played third base, outfield and now has settled in nicely at second base, where he already has helped Utah Valley earn some national recognition this season. The Wolverines pulled off an upset of No. 10 Arizona last month.
"I'm excited about where we're going," Pratt said. "We're going to take the momentum we had from last year and use it as a learning experience and continue to build on. I think we have a bright future ahead of us. There's not a guy on this team that's not excited about what we are capable of doing."