Austin Davis dove right in to televisions across America on Tuesday night when he stretched out to snag a fly ball in right field in WVU’s 4-1 win against Marshall.
The grab sure was impressive — enough so that Davis got a shoutout from ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt that night and the No. 2 spot on the SportsCenter Top 10.
Plenty of fans got their first glimpse of the speedy outfielder when they flipped on the worldwide leader in sports, but the Mountaineer faithful know that snag was just one part of another strong performance by Davis. The junior from Orlando, Florida logged a 3-for-4 night against WVU’s in-state rival, recording a pair of doubles and an RBI.
He is now West Virginia’s leading hitter with a .306 batting average and 41 hits on the season, and the biggest weapon on the base paths with 13 steals.
“Gosh, considering what his average was a month ago, I’d have to look and see what he’s hitting in the last ten games,” said WVU coach Randy Mazey. “But, it’s gotta be pretty high.”
The skipper is on to something — Davis is in the best offensive stretch of his career, hitting .415 since the Mountaineers’ series against Kansas State. He even knocked his first home run over the fence during WVU’s series against Oklahoma, helping to spark a two-run rally for extra innings.
Entering the Kansas State series, Davis’s average was sitting at .258, and not much more before that, he was struggling to keep it over .200.
“He’s doing exactly what we talked about, not worrying about homers and just trying to get on base and doing his thing,” Mazey said.
This breakout season was actually poised to happen a year ago, but the 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Davis was still presented with a unique opportunity to play and get exposure in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational (CSBI). He showed out, notching a pair of hits for CSBI Unity against CSBI Liberty, including the game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.
Davis spent the rest of the offseason and the first part of 2021 focusing on his mechanics, but it is clear (to both him and those watching) that his work has paid off.
“At this point, it’s just the mental part of the game,” he said.
Davis has lined up in both the leadoff spot at the nine hole — which, at WVU, has less of a stigma as it functions as a second leadoff spot. It doesn’t matter to Davis where Mazey slots him, as he says his job and comfort level stay the same.
“They’re like the same spots in the order, just trying to get on base,” he said. “I think being in the one hole kind of gives you a little bit more confidence, but you just have to have confidence throughout the whole lineup no matter where you’re at.”
Davis and his team have six games left in the regular season, including one more series against a Big 12 foe, Texas. They then head to the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City with the hopes of earning a spot in the postseason.
His summer of baseball just gets started at that point, however. Davis, along with WVU catcher Paul McIntosh and reliever Madison Jeffrey, will participate in the inaugural season of the MLB Draft League, which features six minor league ballclubs including the West Virginia Black Bears, managed by WVU and Morgantown’s own Jedd Gyorko.
“The 5-foot-11, 175-pound right-handed hitter fits the mold of a leadoff man well because he shows an aptitude for playing small ball and putting pressure on the defense, with on-base skills that are fueled by his patient approach,” reads Davis’s spotlight on Prep Baseball Report, which is making the MLB Draft League possible. “Davis has bounced around the diamond in his collegiate career and saw time at multiple infield spots as an underclassman before settling into an outfield role in ‘21.”