Eyes of The Hawk is a Vanderbilt Baseball blog written by VandyRadio Sports Director Max Herz, new for the 2015 season. Max covers the Commodores for VandyRadio, The Vanderbilt Hustler, and (coming soon) the SEC Network. Check in throughout the season for an inside look at the defending National Champions, as we cover the boys of The Hawk with the eyes of a hawk.
The Bryan Reynolds in center and Nolan Rogers in left experiment is over, and a new world order has begun. Freshman Jeren Kendall has taken over center field, is on pace to promptly take over Nashville, and will eventually take over the world.
Kendall’s permanent entry into the starting lineup Sunday marked the start of a three game Commodore win streak, the club’s first of the season. In those three starts, the speedy Kendall is 3-for-8 with four runs scored, reaching base in seven of 12 plate appearances. Each of his three collegiate hits have gone for extra bases, including two triples. His pop and speed have been a deadly combination to this point.
“You can see glimpses of what he’s all about. More than glimpses, actually,” said Coach Tim Corbin. “There are times when he just rolls his wrists on a ball and hits it 300 feet, easily. He’s obviously very fun to watch when he goes around the bases.”
Corbin has always reaped the benefits of a fast roster. Ro Coleman’s success as a freshman in 2014 showed that speed is often all it takes to make the lineup card early on. Corbin allows his fastest players to develop into more than just speedsters with plentiful playing time. No such development will be necessary for Kendall, as he appears close to a five-tool player just two weeks into his college career. He’s got great speed, makes good contact, drives the ball well, and catches anything hit his way in center. Though his arm hasn’t yet been tested in a game, Kendall has earned his spot in center field.
“His work prior to the game has been on point and good,” Corbin said. “I like the way he’s taking outfield [drills], he throws the ball accurately. Those things stand out, they mean a lot for a young kid and how they go about doing the small things. I like the way he’s progressing.”
Kendall’s on-field maturity and plate discipline mirror his veteran teammates, and they’ve noticed. Jeren’s world takeover has allowed Bryan Reynolds to move back to his comfortable left field spot, but Reynolds has been most impressed by the freshman’s bat. “He uses purely his hands, and he still generates an impressive amount of power and drive with the ball,” Reynolds said. “Anything in the gap is going to be a triple for him.”
A low liner to right center proved an easy triple for Kendall on Wednesday. Hawkins Field feels cavernous this season due to the new NCAA baseballs, and Kendall and his teammates have used the expansive outfield advantageously. The Commodores have eight triples in as many games after hitting 14 three-baggers all last season. Consistently driving the ball to the outfield, Kendall’s smooth contact swing will translate into some major power in the immediate future once he incorporates his full body.
Whether or not he swings for power, the freshman has already conquered center field and isn’t looking back. Jeren Kendall is the prototypical Tim Corbin speedster, and has already surpassed his skipper’s expectations en route to a world takeover.
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