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Spring Lake native JP Batts proving Hope was the right fit

By Chris Zadorozny /The Holland Sentinel • May 12, 2017 at 4:00 AM

It’s only fitting for JP Batts to play baseball. His last name is a key piece of equipment in the sport.

He’s always dreamed of playing college baseball, but finding that right fit didn’t come easy.

After graduating from Spring Lake, he took his talents to Olivet Nazarene for his freshman year of college and played baseball there, but something just didn’t feel right.

Batts began looking to transfer and Hope College popped up thanks to current teammate Codey Houts, who played with him in high school.

Once Batts chatted with head coach Stu Fritz, he took a chance on Hope and it has paid off.

On Tuesday, Batts was named All-MIAA First Team and is leading the Flying Dutchmen into their MIAA Tournament.

“He’s a quiet kid. He leads by example, he plays hard, he’s a grinder,“Fritz said. “What he’s done for us offensively, he’ll rank in top 10 career categories in almost every offensive category.”

In the MIAA, Batts is leading the league in average with .439, which includes 43 hits, nine doubles, three triples and one home run.

“I think he’ll be about a career .350 hitter,” Fritz said. “He’s been in our program for three years and he’ll have started to close to 125 ballgames. He’s been a fixture in right field for us, plays right field as well as we’ve had, he plays the sun well, just been solid.”

Hitting at the plate didn’t always come easy. It was an adjustment, even for a player with the last name that oozed baseball.

“I think the really that one thing that changed for me was my mental approach,” Batts said. “In previous seasons, I would kind of get down on myself if I made mistakes. This being my final year, I kinda just threw my worries out the window and kind of said ‘screw it if I mess up.’ I think mental approach is the main thing.”

His mental approach has changed his game. In nearly 30 less at-bats this year, he has eight more hits than he did last season and two home runs, two more than his two previous seasons combined. He added eight more RBIs and he has struck out just 10 times this season, 21 less than last year.

“Obviously I’m having a good year and pitchers are trying to figure out how to pitch to me and I’ve mainly been a fastball hitter for as long as I’ve played,” Batts said. “I’ve really been able to adjust to the different pitches — curveballs, changeups, sliders, you name it — I’ve really been able to adjust and be able to just use the whole field, rather than just pulling the ball, just staying on the off-speed pitches.”

Going into the MIAA Tournament, Batts isn’t thinking about his individual award he earned on Tuesday. No, he’s thinking about the tournament and how he can play more games.

On Saturday, he finished his final season at Boeve Stadium with a split against Adrian, the best team in the league.

“I’ve been thinking about the tournament all week, the main thing is I want to keep playing, keep winning,” Batts said.

In order to do that, he said the Flying Dutchmen will have to focus on the basics, which means don’t swing too high or too low, pitching and fielding well and continue their strong hitting.

Last season, the Flying Dutchmen came close to winning the MIAA Tournament, only to lose in the top of the ninth, 3-1 to the same team they’ll face on Wednesday.

“The beauty of the MIAA Tournament, it really does have a postseason feel to it,” Fritz said. “Our kids love playing in it and it’s just an exciting time for our program.”

If they win, the Flying Dutchmen will travel to Adrian on Thursday to play in the winner’s bracket. A loss puts them into the losers bracket and a second loss would kick them out of the tournament.

“I’ve really enjoyed these few years at Hope and I’m really happy with the decision I’ve made and the people I’ve gotten to meet over the years,” Batts said.

If Batts has his way, his season will continue into next weekend, but that’ll be up to his team and the bats in their hands.

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