Russell ups game by slowing it down

By Brian Earle

Freshman third baseman Carl Russell didn’t exactly come out of the gates swinging a hot bat to start his career on the diamond as a Huskie.

In Russell’s first 15 games, he posted a batting average of .194 while going 7-for-36 at the plate. A lot of this had to do with Russell adjusting to the speed of college baseball.

“Every aspect of the game is sped up a lot,” Russell said. “Pitching, runners are a lot faster, hitters are better, everything has been increased in speed, and that’s why the coaches taught me to slow down the game and not let the game play you.”

Head coach Ed Mathey said breaking balls got the best of Russell early on in the season.

“He was simply a dead-red hitter early on and just hadn’t seen enough good breaking balls, enough of the college breaking balls to be able to adjust to it, and that was his biggest thing,” Mathey said. “He’d get his fastball to hit, which kept him going, but when it came time for the breaking ball he had to make some adjustments.”

Russell realized he needed to adjust to the speed of the game at the college level, and he did that by establishing an approach at the plate.

“I’ve been slowing the game down and not letting the game play me,” Russell said. “[It’s important to] definitely have an approach and [be] thinking about what you’re going to do before you get to the plate. You have to know what you’re going to do before you get in the box.”

The adjustment paid Russell dividends in a big way. On March 23, Russell went 1-for-5 against Buffalo, which was the start of a 10-game hitting streak.

Over the course of his 10-game hitting streak, Russell posted a .395 batting average while going 17-for-43 at the plate. Also in that span, Russell hit his first collegiate home run and posted his first four-hit game.

“It felt good to start to get hot like that,” Russell said. “I felt like I had a good approach. I still do, but I need to keep working and see better pitches. When you get on a streak like that it feels good, but eventually it wears off, so now I just need to get back to hitting how I was.”

Since then, Russell has cooled off but continues to be a focal point of the Huskies’ offense by primarily batting in the leadoff spot.

“The leadoff hitter sets the tone for the game, so you have to have a good at-bat because that really sets the tone for the rest of the inning,” Russell said. “So, I’m always thinking before the game, ‘What pitches does he throw? What’s his velocity?’ Stuff like that and then go from there.”

Mathey has been impressed with Russell’s ability to come in as a freshman and make a quick impact for the Huskies.

“He’s got some skill set, he’s got some foot speed, he’s got some arm strength, and those all transfer into being able to succeed up here,” Mathey said. “… I like his attitude, I love his approach, but he’s shown a lot of signs of somebody who’s going to be OK for us.”