Wright State baseball: Patience pays off for Centerville grad

FAIRBORN — Before becoming one of the most feared hitters in the Horizon League, Quincy Hamilton thought his best chance for success when he walked on at Wright State was as a pitcher.

He put up decent numbers at Centerville High School, notching 22 strikeouts and not allowing an earned run in 14 1/3 innings as a senior. But the All-Greater Western Ohio Conference pick admitted he was a raw prospect.

“I was our team’s closer, and I’d come in out of the bullpen and pretty much just chuck it as hard as I could,” he said.

That didn’t really work with the Raiders. And after two years of nagging injuries and minimal results, he made the switch to full-time position player, tapping into that lively arm to become a top defensive center fielder while also blossoming as a hitter.

Beefing up from 180 to 210 pounds, the 5-foot-10 Hamilton batted .357 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, rapping out four hits in an upset of No. 1 Louisville. And he’s putting together one of the best seasons in Raider history this year.

He’s batting .360 through 36 games and is first in the league in RBIs (44), second in homers (10), on-base percentage (.511) and total bases (98) and tied for fifth in stolen bases (12). He also leads the nation in runs per game (1.61).

Players may have a hard time standing out from the pack at the plate for Wright State — which has the most productive offense in Division I with 10.4 runs per game — but it’s safe to say the rest of the league wishes Hamilton would have stuck with pitching.

“He’s drawing a lot of interest from (Major League) scouts coming to our games. He could be player of the year in the conference. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. And he’s such a great kid,” coach Alex Sogard said.

Hamilton’s emergence has helped the Raiders (25-11 overall, 24-4 in the HL) clinch their third straight regular-season title. They have a four-game series with visiting Oakland this weekend and then will host the four-team, double-elimination league tourney May 27-29.

Though Hamilton performed well enough as a sub in 2018 to make the HL all-freshman team, there was a logjam in the outfield until three multi-year starters moved on. Peyton Burdick and J.D. Orr were both high draft picks in 2019, and Zach Weatherford won the prestigious Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his defensive prowess.

“He had to be really patient,” Sogard said of his lefty No. 2 hitter. “Our outfield was so loaded. He was talented then, but there just wasn’t much opportunity. I thought last year was going to be his year, and then Covid hit, so I’m glad he’s finally an everyday guy.”

Hamilton’s parents are in the Air Force and were transferred from New Mexico to Wright-Patt when he was a high school sophomore.

The fifth-year senior wasn’t exactly enthralled with the idea of moving to Ohio at first.

“I didn’t want go, but it probably was best for my baseball career, getting more exposure,” he said. “I felt like I got a lot better coming here.”

Seeing the talent at Wright State, though, was a shock to his system.

“I knew I had a lot of room to develop, so I wasn’t expecting to play. But I got good enough to play faster than (the coaches) were expecting,” said Hamilton, who has earned a degree in sports science and is working on his Master’s in sports management.

“It was weird because there usually isn’t three outfielders that are there for a while. All it took was for one of them to leave, and I would’ve gotten more chances. But for the longest time, it was a mental battle, knowing I was good enough to play but wasn’t going to.”

Asked if he thought about transferring, he said: “That thought definitely runs through your mind. But I made a commitment here. I thought back to when I was in high school, and they were the only Division I school to offer me a spot on the team. It was only a walk-on spot, but I thought it was the best thing ever.

“I went back to that mindset whenever I wasn’t playing. I could go somewhere, but what are the odds that the grass is actually greener?”

Hamilton certainly covers a lot of grass in the outfield for the Raiders these days.

As Sogard put it: “He’s a lockdown center fielder.”

Being a five-tool player likely means he’ll become another in a long line of Raider draft picks this spring.

“It’s exciting that everyone else gets to see how good he is,” Sogard said. “He’s been really good for a long time.”

Women’s track: Though the Raiders finished 10th among 11 teams in the league outdoor championships last weekend, Shelby Nolan and Abigail Halsey won individual titles.

Nolan of Whitehouse, Ohio, set a league record in the 10K with a time of 34:42.60. Halsey, a Tipp City product, prevailed in the 3000-meter steeplechase after a fifth-place showing in the event the last time the meet was held in 2019.

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