Photo C/O Mike Marasco via marauders.ca
By Jovan Popovic, Staff Writer
McMaster’s baseball team had an outstanding 2019 season. With a great regular season record of 12-6-0, the team entered the Ontario University Athletics tournament with the 10th seed, but ultimately lost in the semi-finals in a 10 to seven loss to the eventual tournament champions, the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks. Despite the loss, the team had many bright spots throughout the year, the most obvious being the much improved play of center fielder, Nik Motruk.
Motruk broke out this past school year, being a co-recipient of the OUA’s most valuable player award, and also being recognized as the OUA’s most valuable hitter. The fourth year mechanical engineering student led the team in his monstrous comeback year, hitting at a .581 average. Motruk, who had been a pitcher before an injury during the 2018-2019 school year, made the seamless transition to a full-time player this season, proving his value to the team no matter his position.
“Near the end of the 2018 campaign I suffered a shoulder injury which set me back, and I have not been able to pitch since,” said Motruk. “I played the field growing up and was a good hitter, but I knew that I really had to step up my game if I wanted to keep playing. I worked really hard on my swing to help take me to the next level, and it ultimately resulted in the season I had this year.”
Nikolas Motruk (18)
Converting from the pitcher’s mound to the outfield could be one of the possible reasons for his breakout season. Realizing that you can’t play the position you’ve played your whole life can be really difficult, especially when the next closest alternative is so different. Motruk was able to convert this nervousness into energy and motivation, knowing he had to work harder and find new ways to succeed if he wanted to keep his important role on the team.
Having a pitcher’s mindset in the batter’s box can actually be quite beneficial. One of the biggest aspects of hitting is knowing what to expect. When pitching at a competitive level, it’s helpful to be able to think like the guy you’re facing.
Knowing what is coming can be a huge benefit — just ask the 2017 world series champion Houston Astros.
Despite literally having an MVP season, Motruk isn’t satisfied yet and is hungry for more. The team’s success is the highest priority for him, and despite a great season, his sights are set on what the team can accomplish in the future.
“Baseball is a game of numbers and statistics,” said Motruk, “and I may have had a standout season this year, but at the end of the day the only stat that really matters is the W or L on the scorecard. Baseball is not an individual sport and it can’t be won alone. I am really proud of everything that I accomplished this year but more importantly what we accomplished as a team and I look forward to seeing what is in store for McMaster Baseball moving forward.”
The biggest standout stat for the reigning co-MVP this season was his astronomically high batting average, sitting at .581. Contact hitting is integral to a strong hitter and is defined by a player who rarely strikes out. Naturally, contact hitting is.a huge and critical part of Motruk’s game, especially knowing that once you can pick up hits, everything else comes naturally over time.
“Contact hitting has always been the main focus,” said Motruk. “Hitting for power comes as you get bigger, stronger and start to face better pitching. Getting the ball in play and finding the holes will result in base hits, and sometimes they turn into extra base hits. This year I had 25 hits, 12 of which were for extra bases, but it all starts with putting the ball in play.”
In an age where contact hitting is becoming less and less appreciated, Motruk understands that it is critical for success. With good bat control and pitch timing, it gets easier and easier to find pockets of green in the outfield, which frequently turn into extra bases.
Being a mechanical engineering student who took a co-op year, Motruk still has two years of eligibility with the team despite being in fourth year. The upcoming seasons will undoubtedly be exciting ones for the team with such promising players in their prime upper years.