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Nick Solak is adjusting to pro ball and looking to be consistent on both sides of the ball.

STATEN ISLAND, NY -- Fresh off leading the Louisville Cardinals to the College Baseball Super Regionals this year, Nick Solak is ready to compete in Staten Island. As he begins the adjustment from college to professional baseball, he’s looking to develop his defensive abilities while creating a new regimen for himself.

During his time at Louisville, Solak performed very well for the Cardinals.  Over a three-year span with the team, he played more than 150 games, accumulating 94 RBIs and stealing 36 bases.  Even more impressive though is how consistent he was as a hitter overall.  In 2014, as a freshman, he hit .351.  The following year, he racked up a .324 batting average, and in his final year he hit an astonishing .376.  

Despite the success he had down in Louisville, his transition to professional baseball so far has been difficult.  Through 13 games for the Staten Island Yankees this season, he’s hitting only .240. 

While that average might not look great, it’s actually pretty misleading as Solak has actually been hitting balls pretty hard.  Unfortunately, they have ended up going right at players and missing gaps. 

In Solak’s opinion, the hardest adjustment so far has been trying to find steady success at the plate.

“Sometimes you hit balls hard and they don't find holes, they go right at guys," Solak said.  "Sometimes you break a bat and a hit falls in, so [I’m working on] trying to be consistent and rolling with whatever happens.”

Even though he is struggling to find gaps right now he believes his overall acclimation to pro ball is going smoothly.

“I got off to a pretty hot start and was playing well but hit a little bit of a cold patch here," he said.  "But, in baseball you can't get too [caught up with things], you just show up every day, try to be consistent, help the team win and get better at something every day.”

A year after having the second highest batting average for the Louisville Cardinals, Solak highlighted how the expanded versatility he is seeing among professional pitchers early on is more challenging than he had seen in college. 

“You see a lot of good arms; with every arm that you see, every guy on the mound has good stuff and good mixed pitches.  You’ve really got to compete and battle when you're in the box, and compared to college, you see that every guy [teams] run out [to pitch] is a top arm.”

Although Solak is still only beginning to adapt to professional baseball, Staten Island Yankees hitting coach Eric Duncan believes he is handling the transition well.

“[Nick’s transition is] going as well as it can go," Duncan opined.  "It's obviously an adjustment; it's a daily grind, with guys coming into pro ball the first time or just understanding [the game]. He's competing as well as he can and he's had some tough luck; He's had a lot of hard outs, a lot of quality at-bats, And he's sticking with that process.”

Additionally, while Solak’s numbers don’t directly indicate his true offensive prowess, Duncan likes his approach and believes he battles well during at-bats.

“He's shown the ability to consistently find ways to put the barrel on the ball,' Duncan added.  "He gives himself a chance [to hit]…He has the ability to get the barrel in the zone early and keep it through for a good amount of time.  And, he competes, he really does.  He doesn't take any pitches off.  He's definitely a competitor.”

Solak has been playing hard and only trails Ricardo Ferreira for the team lead in runs [17-13] and he's walked [7] more than he's struck out [4] so far.    

Staten Island Yankees Manager Dave Bialas has shown a lot of faith in Solak in the early going, playing him early and often.  In addition, Bialas values his tools highly.

“[Solak] has bat speed and he uses the whole field," Bialas said. "When there are runners in scoring position, he’s the guy you want at the plate.” 

While Solak is very focused on becoming a more consistent hitter, he actually spends a bulk of his time improving his defense.

“As far as defensively, probably just getting more reps, still working at second base and getting a little bit better, all the way around whether it's getting to more balls in the holes or working on my turn [will help me improve].  I think defensively I still have a lot of room to grow,” Solak admitted.

“His hands are good," Bialas said. "His arm is good, he's really quick around the bag, has good feet, and good instincts out on defense.

"He’s a gamer; he plays hard and is smart.  He's done a good job at second base and can swing the bat and run.  He has tools.  I can see why he was a high pick.”

Through 13 games, he’s made only one error while generating some highlight reel plays at second base.  During his playing time in Staten Island, Solak is determined to improve his overall game, but his defense is his biggest point of emphasis.

“The defensive side [is where I want to improve], by getting a lot of work in batting practice on reading balls and then in the game as well.  Just getting to more balls and having a quick first step, getting to balls in the hole and being a consistent offensive player, it’s going to show up every day, either by scoring runs or driving runs in," Solak concluded.


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