RENO, Nev. – Nevada Wolf Pack (31-10, 16-5 MW) second baseman Ryan Howell (Brentwood, Calif./Heritage HS) has helped lead his team to a first place standing in the Mountain West Conference.
Along with big hitting teammate Austin Byler, Howell and the Wolf Pack have been one of the nation’s most dangerous lineups this season.
A utility player, Howell has climbed his way in to the Player of the Year discussions by registering an incredible year at the plate. He entered 2015 being named one of Nevada’s summer league position players of the year.
“Coming from a junior college after going to Oregon State, where I had a lot of success initially, all my hard work is paying off,” Howell told College Baseball Central. “The dedication to the weight room, to the cages, to the mental training and everything that goes into it is all starting to pay off. “
Big home runs, and plenty of RBIs has this Nevada team nationally ranked in 2015. Howell himself is hitting .346 with 52 RBIs (3rd Nation), 54 hits, 13 doubles, three triples, and 12 home runs (Tied 5th Nation).
“We have really good leadership on this team,” Howell said. “We have a mature younger class that works well together. We do everything we can not to get big-headed. I think the leaders, Austin Byler, myself, Adam Witt, we all try to keep the younger guys who haven’t had experience at this level, along with ourselves, grounded.”
The 6 feet 2 inch 210 pound bruiser is also 37th in the nation with 41 runs scored, while his 109 total bases is fifth in the nation. Add his .699 slugging percentage (11th Nation), and his .449 on-base percentage to the mix and you can see why he was named to the USA Baseball 60-man Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list.
“Our coach Jay Johnson preaches a lot about getting a good pitch to hit and putting your best swing on it,” Howell told CBC. “If a pitch is going to take you out of your best swing before two strikes, don’t take it. That’s been a really big thing for us this year. We are taking pitchers pitches and hitting the ball, so we can drive them like that.”
This season has seen an increase in offense with the addition of the flat seamed ball, and home runs are up, according to a report released by the NCAA, 40 percent from a year ago.
The introduction of the new ball in an effort to increase offensive production has paid off, and Howell is one of the case in points.
“Just to do what I’m doing right now,” Howell replied when asked about his 2015 goals. “Be healthy all year long, and just to perform and do the best I can.”
The end of the season is drawing closer, teams are separating themselves from others as well as individual players. Howell is certainly making his case felt with the numbers he is putting up. Coming down the home stretch, college baseball fans will be in for a suspenseful conclusion of a historic 2015 season.
The 2015 Golden Spikes Award winner will be christened on Tuesday, June 23, in Los Angeles. The front-runners as well as their families will be esteemed at the Rod Dedeaux Foundation Dinner at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles.
“I have been as healthy as I have ever been,” Howell told College Baseball Central. “It’s real nice to have everything working in sync together.”
Perhaps Howell knows where this is all heading.