MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The Fordham kid with 43 stolen bases saw that West Virginia intends to start Nick Snyder in Friday’s NCAA regional opener.
“A lefty is going to make it tough,” said Jake MacKenzie, the Rams shortstop who ranks fourth in Division I in steals.
Fordham likely won’t be standing pat, not with a lineup that leads the nation with 177 steals overall.
MacKenzie, who bats .313 out of the No. 3 hole, praises his coaches for committing to the speed game and teaching baserunners how to guess the right pitches.
“We’re not guys who are going to be hitting the ball around the park, so it’s about manufacturing runs,” MacKenzie said.
That’s the recruiting pitch Kevin Leighton and assistant Rob DiToma made. Now Fordham is back ithe NCAAs for the first time since 1998.
“Our park is a big park and the winds tends to blow in, so we realized we needed to recruit guys who could No. 1, cover ground in the outfield, and No. 2, put pressure on defense — go first to third and steal some bases,” Leighton said.
MacKenzie didn’t value himself as a prized baseball recruit. [His only other offer came from Quinnipiac.] He also was a starter on his high school’s basketball team and emerged at water polo.
“You had to play a sport every term, and I wasn’t going to risk playing football and getting hurt,” he said.
“So I gave water polo a shot. I got pretty good my senior year. It’s crazy how much endurance and shoulder strength it builds.”
Countering West Virginia’s Snyder (8-1, 2.71 ERA), the Rams will send out surprising sophomore John Stankiewicz (8.3, 1.21 ERA).
“John has good stuff, but he doesn’t have great stuff, so when you watch him he doesn’t blow you away,” Leighton said. “But when the game is over he has given us a chance to win every time out.”
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