The Wright State baseball team has players who hit for a higher average and with more power than J.D. Orr, but no one in the lineup causes more distress for opponents than the senior left fielder.
He’s first in the Horizon League with 23 steals — nobody else in the conference has more than 10 — and fourth nationally in that category.
“He’s a lot of fun to watch,” first-year coach Alex Sogard said. “Once he gets on base, I sit back and enjoy the show.”
Like his predecessors, Sogard has given most of his players the green light to run. Not only are Raiders 13th nationally in steals at 2.27 per game, up from 1.96 last season, but they put pressure on pitchers and defenses because they’re so bold on the basepaths.
“We’re pretty aggressive,” he said. “We run at times when maybe a lot of teams don’t. It increases your chances of scoring. The other thing, too, is it distracts the pitchers a little bit.
“When J.D. and some of our other guys are on base, they’re so concerned about them not stealing, they may end up leaving a pitch over the plate, and some of our hitters will get better pitches to hit.”
That formula is working for the Raiders (16-7, 4-2), who have won 12 of their last 15 games. They’re 50 of 62 in stolen bases, while their foes are 20 of 25.
Orr has a league-best 29 runs scored. He’s hitting a modest .280 but has a .416 on-base percentage — in part because he bats from the left side and has the speed to sometimes beat out even routine grounders.
“He’s one of the fastest guys in the country from home to first. He can really run.” Sogard said.
“When J.D. gets on base, we typically end up winning the game. And it’s rare when he doesn’t get on base.”
Orr has 81 career stolen bases, which is fifth in program history. Bill Stosik (1995-98) holds the record with 101, followed by Brent Fruhwirth (1987-91) with 100, Steve Haines (1977-80) with 88 and Brian Bailey (1985-88) with 82.
While Orr certainly could end up the all-time leader, Sogard said the next 20 steals will be a challenge because of extra attention.
“Once you get up in the 20s in stolen bases, the radar on you is that much bigger. There’s a bigger target. Teams are a lot more cautious when he’s on base than they would be if he only had 10 stolen bases,” he said.
“It’s only going to get harder from here, but I think he’s got a good opportunity to reach that.”
Junior Peyton Burdick leads the league with a .392 average and 25 RBIs. Junior Seth Gray is hitting .324 and tied for second with senior Zach Weatherford with 22 RBIs.
“We’re deeper offensively than we’ve been most years,” Sogard said. “We have 11 or 12 guys who can be in the lineup every day.”
Sogard has found a novel way to get a sub at least one plate appearance each road game. He’ll bat a reserve outfielder at lead-off in the top of the first and then replace him in the lineup with catcher Brandon Giltrow when the Raiders take the field in the bottom of the inning.
“It’s just to give some of these guys who are talented enough (a chance to hit). I think on a lot of other teams, they’d be starting. But we have the depth in the outfield with Orr, Weatherford and Burdick where some guys aren’t getting as many at-bats,” he said.
“The way we look at it, we get to hit our best nine hitters as much as possible.”
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