Zach Lavy's senior season didn’t exactly get off to a strong start.
Missouri’s senior first baseman opened the 2016 campaign by going hitless in the Tigers’ first three games against Seton Hall down in Florida, a stretch of 11 consecutive at-bats without a hit.
Lavy bounced back in Mizzou’s fourth game with a three-hit performance and he really hasn’t stopped hitting since. Lavy is hitting .319 for the season, which ranks second among the Tigers behind only Jake Ring’s .321 average, but if you take out those first three games Lavy is hitting a robust .352.
“He’s more confident,” Missouri junior shortstop Ryan Howard said. “I’ve seen it every year that I’ve played with him in the fall. He smashes, he’s a great hitter, great player, great defensively at first base. Things the first few years just probably didn’t go his way at the start and the difference is this year, he had a rough first weekend too for us and it doesn’t bother him now.
“He’s a senior, he’s been around it so much, and the leadership and energy that he brings is unbelievable. For him to be able to just go out there and play the way that I know he can play and he knows that he can play is awesome. It’s fun to watch.”
Lavy leads the Tigers with 38 hits, 10 doubles, five triples, 29 RBIs, 28 runs scored and .563 slugging percentage. He is second on the team in batting average and home runs (three).
The North Callaway High School product, who spent a year at Jefferson College before transferring to Missouri, has become a fixture in the middle of the Tigers’ lineup and has produced.
The clean-up hitter came through on Tuesday against visiting Southern Illinois Edwardsville with three RBIs — on a two-run triple in the first inning and an RBI sacrifice fly in the second. He also scored a run in Mizzou’s 9-6 non-conference victory.
The Tigers have been inconsistent up and down the lineup this season, for the most part, but Lavy disagreed with a question after Tuesday’s game about carrying the load offensively this spring.
“If guys aren’t getting on in front of me, then I don’t have the numbers that I do,” Lavy said. “I personally believe that it’s a lot easier for me to hit when runners are on than leading off innings. Guys have been getting on base and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some pitches that I can handle and just did what I know I can do with them.”
The 6-foot-3, 228-pound left-handed hitter has done that pretty well this season and is making the most of his final days wearing the Missouri uniform after hitting .238 with 16 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs, 27 runs scored and 11 stolen bases a year ago.
“I think he’s got a better approach,” Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said of the difference in Lavy this season. “He’s not chasing nearly as much as he has in the past. He’s a much better hitter with two strikes. A lot of that comes with experience and of course the confidence that he has but he’s done a great job for us. He’s one RBI away from having 30 RBIs at this point in the season, which is pretty good for anybody.”