Niko Hulsizer had a solid debut for Morehead State playing a part-time role as a freshman in 2016.
In 39 games, including 25 starts, he hit .345/.406/.586 with nine doubles and five home runs. That type of performance was enough to show that he was ready for a larger role as a sophomore.
And when he got his shot in 2017, he took advantage, to say the very least.
In 59 games (all starts), he hit .349/.435/.775 with 21 doubles, 27 home runs, and 82 RBI. His home run total was good for second in the nation, behind only Iowa’s Jake Adams and his 29 homers. His RBI total put him in a tie for second place in the country, behind only Wake Forest’s Gavin Sheets, who had 84. It’s important to note that both Adams and Sheets had postseason games to use to continue to bolster their statistics, whereas Hulsizer did not.
Sometimes, you have to put the gaudy offensive stats of certain players in perspective, and with Morehead State players, you have to take into account that they play their home games in a ballpark with a right field fence that is easily reachable for anyone with some pop to that field. Additionally, much like the Green Monster in left field at Fenway Park, a tall right field fence at Allen Field at Morehead State (used to help offset the short distance to home plate) serves as a target off of which hitters can bash doubles. As a result, the Eagles feature prolific offenses year after year.
In 2017, for example, Morehead State hit .332 as a team. Six players collected 11 doubles or more on the season, and as a team, they had 83 home runs. In 2016, they hit .312 as a group, with eight hitters putting up double-digit doubles totals. Their 2015 team was the most impressive of all. That squad had five players who had 20 or more doubles on the season on the way to totaling 172 as a team.
But Hulsizer took advantage of the chance to prove that his impressive numbers were not just simply an artifact of playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark when he won the annual college home run derby at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, defeating Alabama’s Chandler Taylor in the final. It’s safe to say that bashing 49 home runs in a cavernous ballpark like that, no matter the situation, is proof positive that his power will play just about anywhere.
And that’s why he’ll be so much fun to watch in 2018.