The Dominion Post  

Sharpe has lifted his offense down stretch

Created on:   Sun, Aug 27, 2017   9:31 PM

Last modified:   Sun, Aug 27, 2017   10:25 PM

The Dominion Post

GRANVILLE — Chris Sharpe strove to maintain a positive outlook when his batting average dipped to .186 in early August.

Truly he did.

“It’s hard,” the West Virginia Black Bears left fielder said. “Everyone can say they’re perfect at it, but they’re lying. It’s in the back of their head somewhere.”

Residing in a batting-average neighborhood that failed to match his weight (195 pounds) is not something the Burlington, Mass., native is accustomed to.

He hit .333 in his redshirt sophomore season with UMass Lowell this spring, with seven home runs and 25 RBIs.

The Pittsburgh Pirates cut him an above-slot bonus check of $256,000 as their 14th-round draft choice.

Sharpe wanted to produce. He didn’t experience much luck early on, as his hits found more gloves than anything else.

Baseball players like to reassure themselves throughout a lengthy season that those things will even out, and for Sharpe they have.

He’s hit in nine of his last 10 games, elevating his average to .234 as the Black Bears return home Aug. 28 for a three-game series, against State College, at Monongalia County Ballpark.

“The bleeders are falling through,” said Sharpe, referencing a weakly hit ground ball that goes for a hit.

“Things are falling in my favor. It’s pretty nice. I’m finding barrels here and there and shortening things up.”

By that, he means he’s shortened his swing. His big swing may have worked in the collegiate ranks, but professional pitchers are more adept at taking advantage of them.

“I’ve been choking up on the bat a lot,” Sharpe said. Black Bears hitting coach Jonathan Prieto “has been telling us all about choking up with two strikes. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself and put the ball in play.”

Black Bears manager Brian Esposito has been in Sharpe’s corner since he joined the team in June. He appreciates Sharpe’s approach at the plate.

“He comes in and he’s aggressive,” Esposito said in July. “If you have an aggressive mentality in this game and you’re looking to do some damage, you’re probably going to wind up doing some damage. He’s got no fear, and he plays the game hard.”

Being in a good frame of mind doesn’t hinder Sharpe’s performance, either.

“Just staying positive has helped me get where I am now,” he said. “I’m definitely not playing like I would like to be. It’s all I can ask for. They are still putting me in the lineup every day, and I get to swing the bat.”

The Black Bears (35-30), who trail Mahoning Valley by three games in the Pinckney Division standings, are down to their final 11 games of the regular season.

They have lost eight of their last 10 games and need to turn it around quickly.

Sharpe isn’t ready to head home to Massachusetts yet.

He’d prefer to play well into September and compete for a New York-Penn League title.

“My college was never eligible for the playoffs because we were a new Division I [school],” he said. “Being able to compete for something is awesome. It’s great.”