Womack makes smashing debut at Huntingdon
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
Most freshman athletes don't get a chance to play. They usually wait their turn and when they are juniors or seniors, they get to see action.
However, when Huntingdon College baseball coach DJ Conville decided to start freshman second baseman Craig Womack in the team's opening series, the results were stunning for a player of any age.
The Hartselle grad came through with seven hits in nine at bats. He also added two walks, reaching base nine-of-11 times he came to the plate.
The performance earned Womack the Great South Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors. The GSA conference consists of eight Division III schools in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.
In the opening game of a doubleheader against Concordia College in Selma Feb. 12, he went three-for-four with two runs and three RBIs and a stolen base.
Womack struck out in his first at bat for the Hawks, but would begin to make his presence known his next time up. Womack singled up the middle on a hit-and-run play, advancing the runner to third. He followed with singles his next two at bats, driving in three runs, and then advanced another runner his fifth time up with a hit-and-run groundout.
In the second game, Womack went four-for-five with two runs scored and stole his second base of the series.
"Each one of those seven hits were hard hit balls," Conville said. "There weren't any flares or squibbers in there. He hit one solid line drive after another."
Womack couldn't explain why he started so well at the plate.
"I was seeing the ball really well in practice and I guess it carried over into the first games," Womack said.
Four days after the opening doubleheader, Womack was informed he had been named the conference's Player of the Week. The honor caught him by surprise, but he feels playing for Hartselle gave him a head start over other college players.
"Playing at Hartselle prepared me well for college ball," Womack said.
"We played the best teams in Alabama and we saw a lot of good pitching. It prepared me for the pitching I'm seeing now. It put me ahead of some other guys who weren't used to seeing the pitching I faced with the Tigers last year."
Womack didn't fare as well the next time out in the first game against Sewanee at home on Feb. 19.
He struck out four times, three times on curveballs and once on what Womack describes as "some off speed junk."
Determined to bounce back, Womack chocked up on his bat and widened his stance for the nightcap of the doubleheader. Womack went three-for-five, scoring twice, driving in two runs and stealing his third base of the season during the second game.
According to Hartselle assistant coach Chris Heaps, it wasn't the first time Womack overcame adversity to succeed.
"He really wasn't projected to be a big contributor for us last season," Heaps said. "It was his first year being fulltime on the varsity.
"But he really came through for us on defense and at the plate and became a very big asset."
Womack drove in 21 runs and scored 26 times, while batting .306 and collecting seven doubles as a Tiger senior.
The all-round skills he developed at Hartselle helped Womack break into the lineup right away at Huntingdon.
"Bottom line is he earned the starting spot with his play in practice," Conville said. "He gave us the best combination of solid defense and good hitting at second base. We bat him second in our lineup, because he's good at the hit-and-run and the bunt-and-run.
"Plus his defense is solid. We don't expect him to make many errors."
Womack thinks there may be more pressure on him to produce for the Hawks after his fast start at the plate.
"I have something to prove each game now," Womack said.
"I want to keep hitting and make the defensive plays to prove it wasn't a fluke."
His coach isn't worried about Womack suffering a slump.
"He's a solid hitter. He came from a good program and he knows how to win," Conville said.
"We expect him to just keep getting better as a hitter."
Womack feels the key to continuing his success at the plate will be waiting on the pitchers to throw strikes.
"A pitcher who can hit his spots really helps me connect," Womack said.
"If they throw it over the plat,. I'm going to hit it."