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Taking the simple approach

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

To get where you want to be sometimes you need to take a path that might not be as conventional as most.

Zach Evans always knew he wanted to play big time college baseball. Before he got the chance on the big stage, Evans honed his skills at one of the best community college baseball programs in the country.

Niagara County Community College has a reputation for not only making a run toward a National title every year, but also getting players to play at the next level. For Evans getting a chance to hone his skills at NCCC was extremely important for his development.

“My time at NCCC was very important to me. Coming out of high school I was very unsure of where I was going to end up. NCCC took me in and it was the best decision I ever made,” stated Evans. “They helped me develop not only as a player, but as a human being. I learned how to manage my time and deal with adversity for really the first time in my life both academically and athletically. NCCC gave me the platform to grow each and every day both on the field and in the classroom. I am forever grateful for them.”

Being a local boy didn’t mean Evans was going to be handed a spot. NCCC recruits from all over the country. That’s what happens when you a reputation of sending players to some of the top Division I and II colleges.

There were times Evans just had to learn to be humble. He knew if he wanted a starting spot he would just have to put his head down and work hard, and good things would come.

“At NCCC, I learned that I need to keep improving each day I am there. They bring in lots of talent from all over the country and coming in as a high school student, I knew I had to work extremely hard. I learned how to separate myself from other players by living in the weight room and developing new skills to my game each day,” stated Evans. “As a person, I learned how to deal with tons of adversity as well from playing in certain weather conditions to adapting to the competition while I was there. I took these lessons to LR and I think it truly helped me separate myself from other players. I always remember to be grateful and humble for each opportunity I get here thanks to NCCC.”

Whether it was in high school, NCCC or Lenoir Rhyne, Evans has always raked. His approach at the plate is a pretty simple one, he just tries to simplify his approach based on the arm’s he facing that day.

Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. It’s the only sport where you can go 3 for 10 and be considered a hall of famer. So, why make it complicated at the plate?

Keep a simple approach and see what happens.

“My approach at the plate really depends on the arms we are facing that day. I try and simplify everything in my approach each time I’m up there. We all know hitting is the hardest thing to do in sports so there is no need to make it more difficult for yourself,” stated Evans. “My coaches also helped me a lot over the years. From the staff at NCCC to the staff at Lenoir Rhyne, they have really played a huge role in developing my approach and making me the player I am today.”

Evans has seen an uptick in his power this season, hitting 11 home runs so far. This isn’t by accident. After last season, where he hit six homers, Evans wanted to increase his power.

After taking to his coaches, they came up with a plan to do just that in the offseason. The power numbers aren’t the only thing that’s impressive. With the home runs up, so is his average. Evans is hitting .321 compared to .294 last year.

“After last season, I really wanted to increase my power numbers. After talking to my coaches, we discussed improvements I could make in the off season and summer ball to help with this. It basically boiled down to just being a more physical presence,” stated Evans. “The main thing I took from that was to start adding more muscle and weight to my body. I spent almost every day in the gym over the winter and came back stronger than when I left. There wasn’t really any crazy swing adjustments. I just kept everything simple and kept my same approach throughout my career.”

Keeping with the simple approach, when Evans is on the on deck circle he runs through his approach that he wants to take when he steps in the box. That approach will differ depending on the situation on the bath paths.

If he’s just looking to get on base his approach will be different then when he is trying to dive in runs, something he has done 44 times this year. He also thanks God for every opportunity he gets.

“When I step into the on deck circle the first thing I do is pray. I thank god for giving me this opportunity before every at bat. I then run through my approach that we established before the game. I then time up the pitcher with every pitch he throws before my at bat,” stated Evans. “While all this is happening, I’m filling my head with confidence. I think confidence has been a big improvement for me and has helped me drastically. This is a big point our coaches make at LR and it has really brought my game to the next level.”

But, it just isn’t all about hitting with Evans. Evans has also been pretty solid in the field. While he may be known as a hitter, Evans takes just as much pride in his play in the field.

He dedicates a lot of time to improving his defense. He knows making a big play in the field is just as important as driving in a run.

“I dedicate lots of time to my defensive game. Whether that be extra fungos before practice, or locking in during BP to really work on my skills. I think defense can either make or break a game. I always want to feel prepared going into a game defensively so when the ball is hit in my direction, I have the upmost confidence to make the play and help me team win,” stated Evans. “While playing at the collegiate level you need to be efficient and quick in the field. As my career went on, I learned to add quickness with my feet and hands to help improve my game defensively.”

Evans has also been a big part of the lineup, because he never leaves the lineup. In his two seasons, Evans hasn’t missed a game. He has played, and started in,105 games in his two years at Lenoir Rhyne.

“I’ve always felt that a major skill to have is availability. Whether I’m a little banged up or I tweaked something I always want to be out there to help my team win. I think always being available really stems from me loving to play the game of baseball,” stated Evans. Being a college athlete takes a toll on the body. I try and do my best to ice after games and sleep at least 8 hours a night to help my body recover quicker. LR also has great facilities and trainers that are available for me whenever I need it. I always try and be available for my teammates and coaches no matter the situation I am in.”

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