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Pierce may be Cutters' most dangerous hitter

July 8, 2013 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT

mrupert@sungazette.com

Logan Pierce's opportunity in professional baseball is likely to be more limited than most of the players taken in the top 15 rounds of the First-Year Player Draft last month. He's well aware of it, too.

As a 23-year old he's the oldest member of the Williamsport Crosscutters and older than most of the players in the New York-Penn League. There's a certain anxiousness he's carried with him since being taken in the 15th round last month out of Troy and being assigned to the Cutters.

The truth of the matter is Pierce will have to move through the Philadelphia Phillies' system quickly if he's going to be considered a prospect worth watching. So far, he's been a prospect worth watching.

Pierce, the Cutters' first baseman, entered Monday's doubleheader against Auburn as the sixth-leading hitter in the New York-Penn League. And he was the second-oldest of the league's top 10 hitters, behind just Brooklyn's Jorge Rivero who is nearly 24 ½ years old. But Rivero was signed in 2011 after defecting from Cuba, and is repeating a season with Brooklyn.

Pierce knows there's a sense of urgency if he wants to make himself a prospect, but he also knows it's something he can't control. So he's not focused on it. But he is aware.

“I don't have much time to move through (the system). These guys (his teammates) are supposed to be in the league at my age,” Pierce said following batting practice at Bowman Field on Monday. “I just have to control what I can control and that's playing hard every day, coming to work every day, following the manager's rules, listening to everybody and being a good, team player. Whatever happens will take care of itself.”

It's difficult not to take notice of what Pierce is doing in such a small sample size through the first three weeks of the season. He leads the Cutters with a .354 batting average. His 34 total bases are second only to Zach Green's 46 and Green leads the league. His five doubles and 12 RBIs are also second-best on the team.

And all of this production comes from a player hitting sixth or seventh in the order. On top of it all, he's played stellar defense at first base after playing 57 games in college this spring at third base.

It all points to a player which normally would have been on the radar of those who follow the Phillies' farm system. But there's that one little caveat about his age. It's not uncommon to see college players in the New York-Penn League, but often times it's college juniors who come in as 21-year olds or seniors who come in at 22 and are often double jumped to advanced Class A ball the following year.

But it's not Pierce's concern. He's put all his focus into controlling what he does on the field, and what he's done over the last 10 to 14 days has been quite impressive.

He came into Monday's doubleheader riding a seven-game hitting streak and an 11-game on-base streak. And he's begun to drive the ball as well, hitting his first out-of-the-park home run and four doubles over the previous six games.

They're streaks which shouldn't come at much of a surprise. He had a 16-game hitting streak at Troy this spring, along with a 42-game on-base streak. It points to the type of player Pierce is.

He's not in the mold of a Dylan Cozens or a Zach Green, the hulking middle-of-the-order hitters for Williamsport with the light-tower power. It's why he's down at sixth or seventh nearly every day in the Crosscutters' lineup. He's the line drive guy, the gap doubles guy who will clean up anything on the bases the middle of the order hitters happen to leave behind.

And recently, Pierce's contact to damage ratio has been impressive.

“I just never really focused on the high fly ball, or that deep fly ball that might carry out of here,” Pierce said. “I've always been the low line-drive hitter. That's what I've always worked on my whole life. It got me to this point. I wouldn't be here with the mentality of hitting high fly balls. What my dad preached in college is a low line drive with enough backspin and carry that you might run one out of here. That's what I focus on every day and what makes me successful.”

He's been a big part of the perfect blend in the Cutters lineup which has made it the third-best offense in the New York-Penn League. There's raw, natural hitting ability in 19-year olds like Cozens, Green and Andrew Pullin mixed with college draftees used to playing this caliber of baseball like Justin Parr, Andrew Knapp and Pierce.

But over the last week, Pierce has been the best, and most lethal, of the group. Williamsport manager Nelson Prada called him the team's best hitter right now following last Wednesday's loss to State College when he drove in the team's only run with an second-inning double.

He's transformed himself from a player who was getting a hit here or there to a player coming through in the clutch with two hits a night. He's hitting .400 with both runners on base (12 for 30) and runners in scoring position (8 for 20). He's picked up at least one RBI in each of his last four games, and eight of his last 10.

It came from one drill he worked on with Phillies minor league hitting coordinator Andy Tracy, Williamsport's 2012 manager. He kept his front foot on an incline during the drill, allowing him to really get his hips into his swing and begin to drive the baseball. As Pierce said, it transformed his swing from a college swing, to more of a pro baseball swing which works better with wood bats.

He has four doubles in his last six games after just one in his first 10 games.

“It allows my hands to work,” Pierce said. “(Hitting coach Lino Connell) works with us every day on just using our hands and staying through the ball. That's what helps me. I'm swinging nice and easy but still have the bat speed to get the ball off the bat. The last week and a half I've come alive a little bit.”

This summer is a new chapter in Pierce's baseball career. It's the first time in three years his manager isn't his father, Bobby. Bobby Pierce has been the head coach at Troy for the last 10 years and Logan had always wanted to play baseball for his dad.

When he finally got to Troy as a sophomore after playing a season at Shelton State Community College, he buckled under the pressure of trying to do too much. His sophomore season was his worst season of college baseball. But he vowed it would never happen again. He had potentially his best season as a junior, hitting .341 with five home runs and 47 RBIs as a junior before hitting .364 with eight home runs and 63 RBIs this spring, helping the Trojans reach the NCAA regional tournament.

He still talks to his dad about baseball just because he's always been his sounding board. Logan can describe the issues he's having with his swing over the phone and his dad knows exactly what he's talking about and can give him some suggestions.

“He's one of the few people that can visualize somebody's swing and say I know what you're doing,” Pierce said. “My first week here, he probably gave me the best advice and that was to have fun. I was struggling out the chute and couldn't get to a fastball to save my life. He just gave me some good fatherly advice and said, 'Man, just have fun. Who cares? Everybody struggles their first week of pro ball, so just have fun.' I was like, you know, he's right. I need to go out there and relax and have fun and just play the game.”

It's all translated into a run which has made Pierce one of the league's most dangerous hitters, no matter how old he is.

 
 

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