Last year in this very countdown, we detailed the fantastic coaching job done by Justin Blood at Hartford. In just a few short years, he’s taken the Hawks from a team that hadn’t won more than 18 games in any single season in more than a decade and turned them into 30-plus game winners.
That progression only continued in 2016, when Blood led his squad to a 37-18 overall record and a 14-9 mark in America East play.
A big piece of that success over the last few years has been the offensive production of first baseman David MacKinnon, who has been a stalwart in the order for much of Blood’s tenure, and who has improved each and every year on campus.
As a freshman back in 2014, appearing primarily as a third baseman, he hit .366/.406/.450 with 11 doubles. Interestingly, that performance not only placed him on the America East All-Rookie Team on the diamond, but his exploits on the soccer pitch put him in that same group as a member of the Hartford soccer program.
In 2015, he bettered his numbers in several ways. He put up a .351/.438/.443 slash line with 13 doubles. He was also much-improved from a plate discipline standpoint, as he took his walk-to-strikeout ratio from 8/20 as a freshman to 25/26 as a sophomore. That was enough to earn him America East All-Conference Second Team honors.
As a junior last season, he took a huge jump, as he hit .392/.471/.544, showing big improvement in all three of those measures. In particular, though, his power production was on another level from where it had been, as he tallied career highs in doubles with 15, triples with three, and home runs with four. For the first time in his career, he also walked (29) more times than he struck out (18). Those improvements didn’t go unnoticed, either, as he was named the America East Player of the Year.
Repeating as the league player of the year is a tough feat, no matter the league. Big-time performances are just too hard to replicate, you are always the guy in the lineup that each team doesn’t want to have beat them, and the relatively small sample size that is an entire college season lends itself to some wild swings in production from year to year. All of those are reasons why it might be smart to bet on someone else winning the award in 2017, but with how consistent he has been since stepping foot on the field for the Hawks, David MacKinnon just might be the guy to pull it off.