LEWISTON — Kevin Davis wasn’t quite ready for the change-up when he enrolled at Bates College.

Originally recruited to play football at Bates, the North Andover, MA native and three-sport star at St. John’s prep didn’t want to make a change of pace and limit himself to just one sport in college. So shortly after the end of his freshman football season, he asked baseball coach Mike Leonard, then beginning his first year with the Bobcats, if he could try out for baseball.

Leonard was intrigued with the 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-handed hitter’s potential to hit and hit with power. Davis made the team and mostly rode the pine as a freshman while making the transition from free-swinging high school slugger to college hitter.

“The ultimate battle as a hitter is to see the ball long enough to adjust to the different pitches thrown,” Leonard said. “His adjustments have gone from being the pull-happy high school kid who’s just better than the average pitcher and can get away with a long swing to just shortening his swing and using the entire field instead of just right field.”

“The biggest adjustment was getting used to the change-up,” Davis said. “In high school, I’d always been able to hit fastballs and curveballs, but no one really had a really good change-up. So I remember struggling a lot my freshman and sophomore year just staying back and kind of seeing the pitches out of the pitcher’s hand. I completely changed my approach to make sure I stayed back.”

Davis spent long hours in the batting cage learning to make those adjustments. The returns were good. He hit .311 as a sophomore, fourth on the team.

He broke out as a junior, leading the Bobcats with 18 doubles, 32 RBIs, a .423 on-base percentage, and .513 slugging percentage while second in several other categories, including batting average (.354). He earned all-NESCAC second team recognition.

Opponents have taken note, especially with Davis getting off to a torrid start for his senior season. He’s hit safely in nine of the Bobcats’ first 11 games, with seven of those being multi-hit contests, and leads the team with a .391 average (18-for-46). The power hasn’t shown yet, but Leonard said it’s because Davis is taking what the pitchers are giving him.

“A lot of times he doesn’t get pitched in a way that allows him to do that. Teams are very aware of the success he’s had,” Leonard said.

Davis said he doesn’t feel any pressure to swing for the fences, or even maintain his lofty batting average. He has hit everywhere from third to sixth in a formidable Bates batting order that also includes former Lewiston star and NESCAC All-Star Mekae Hyde and senior slugger Griff Tewksbury.

“It just shows you how talented we are top to bottom,” said Davis, who has spent most his time at third base this year but has also played first and the outfield in years past. “And we still haven’t played our best baseball, so I think we still have a lot to look forward to this year.”

Looking back on his athletic career as it winds down, the English major has had a lot more hits than misses. In addition to his success on the diamond, Davis has been a big part of the football program’s turnaround as its top receiver the last two years.

“The baseball program had a little more momentum that the football program when we came in, but I think as a class we’ve been able to take that momentum and take it a step further,” he said.


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