NAIA baseball coaches take note of James’ success

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The numbers are there for Hunter James, and the NAIA coaches are taking note.

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After a season in which he slashed to .392 / .475 / .569 / 1.044 with a home run and 11 RBIs for Northwestern Ohio University, James was named one of the 11 third baseman to watch for 2021, chosen by National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics coaches and compiled by Collegiate Baseball.

“It’s really nice,” he said, “but I have to do my fieldwork and perform and stick to what I’ve done and not get too self-centered.”

James, a Stratford Northwestern graduate a few years ago, is entering his freshman year at the Ohio school. It was a game of adjustments for the hard-hitting third baseman, who missed the first five months of his freshman after tearing a pectoral muscle during training. James started out hot, but the opposing pitchers started to mix up their shots in different counts, and the rookie went into a spin.

“I was a little panicked and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I was scratching myself.”

James made his own changes ahead of his second season, and they paid off at the plate. He walked six times with just 11 strikeouts in 51 batting. When he reached base, James swept five bases.

“I knew that once I logged in I was hitting hard,” he said. “It was just swinging the wrong lengths, and I needed to adjust that.”

James, 21, also insisted on going the other way, which meant staying on the pitches a little longer.

“It gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I just worked hard, and it worked.”

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Northwestern head coach Kory Hartman acknowledged in James not only his commitment to his baseball career in school, but also embracing the program’s expectations off the field.

“Hunter brings a batting consistency to our lineup that will see him hitting the middle of the Racers order in the weeks to come,” said Hartman. “His ability to be on time for speed and his ability to make low speed adjustments make Hunter one of the most consistent and dangerous hitters in the country.”

The Racers struggled for most of last season while playing a tough schedule, but the team were starting to put it in place ahead of the campaign’s cancellation in March. UNOH was supposed to start their season on Feb.6 with a double-scheduled in Tennessee, but a Racers player contracted COVID-19.

Opening day is now scheduled for February 20, and James has high expectations for himself and the rest of the club who have most of his roster back. Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference coaches chose UNOH to finish second out of 12 teams in a preseason poll.

“This year will hopefully be pretty good,” said James. “Who knows how many games we are in. The teams may have to cancel, but we hope to be classified by the end of the season or at least reach the World Series.”

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