CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When senior left fielder Tyler Lynn looked at the North Carolina baseball schedule before the 2017 season started, it finally hit him.
It was his final season in Chapel Hill and he was only promised 56 more games of college baseball. So when the first series of the year rolled around in February, and Lynn didn’t see his name in the starting lineup, he knew a change needed to be made.
The Phenix City, Ala. native thought about his junior season, his first at UNC after transferring from Chattahoochee Valley Community College, and how he spent the entire year turning the sport he loved into a chore. He was only hitting .235 from the plate and failing to make an impact for his teammates and coaches.
“Last year you could come in and look at your batting average and it’s a little hard to come to the ballpark everyday,” Lynn said.
But when Lynn wasn’t a part of the opening day lineup, he decided to change his mindset. He focused his efforts on letting it all hang loose and starting to enjoy the game, knowing that his team would eventually need him.
“You come into the perspective that this could be it for me and I’m going to have fun,” Lynn said. I knew they were always going to need my bat. So just always be prepared. I have a lot of confidence in my ability.”
The call finally came for the senior a few games into the season, and he hasn’t disappointed. Lynn has started 36 of 42 games and is second on the team in batting average (.326), second in slugging (.519), and tied for second in home runs (5). His bat has become an integral part of the Tar Heels success this season and has them on trajectory to reach their first Division I Regional since 2014.
More recently, Lynn has been responsible for propelling UNC (37-9) to six straight victories and a five-game lead atop the ACC Coastal Division. The left fielder hit a walk-off single to complete the series sweep of Clemson to close out April, and added onto his success with a run-scoring double in the Tar Heels’ 5-4 win over Richmond last week before entering the exam break.
According to UNC head coach Mike Fox, the difference in Lynn’s game this year is instantly noticeable.
“He’s playing loose this year,” Fox said. “It’s such a mental game when you just relax and play for fun and just try to enjoy your last year of playing. It’s amazing how your level of play rises.”
So as the number of games on the schedule gets smaller and smaller, the importance of Lynn’s final goal as a Tar Heel increases; he wants this team to make it to Omaha.
“That’s why you come here,” he said.
For Fox, the production he is getting out of Lynn this season makes him reflect even more on his decision to exclude him from the opening weekend lineup months ago.
“That tells you how dumb I am,” Fox said.