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Metea's Sam Hanson slides safely into third base before Neuqua's Alex DiFranco can make the tag. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Times Media
Sam Hanson realizes that the end is near.
The Metea Valley senior will attend Ohio University next fall. He plans on committing himself full-time to studying aviation.
He will no longer spend a great deal of his winter on the basketball court, nor his spring and summers shagging fly balls in baseball, so he’s doing his flying this spring around the bases to make the most of his final season.
“I really want a romantic finish,” he said. “We’ve got great chemistry here and everyone knows their roles. The pitchers have done a great job and the hitting has been there. As long as we can stay sound in the field, we can go very far.”
Hanson was frustrated for most of the basketball season. An ankle sprain initially kept him out of action for a month. After finally returning, he tweaked it again and never really got his legs under him.
He’s seemingly taken out his frustrations on the baseball — and opposing pitchers — as he’s arguably become the top leadoff hitter in the Naperville Sun coverage area.
Through Monday, the left-handed hitter was batting .494 with a .568 on-base percentage. He’s already scored 28 runs. He has 12 multi-hit games, seven doubles, 12 RBI, and has helped the Mustangs improve to 16-9.
“I really struggled my sophomore year and when I first came up to varsity, but coach (Craig Tomczak) really helped me get my hands through the ball,” Hanson said. “My speed is so useful that I can usually beat it out with a regular swing so I just try to get it in play and do damage that way.”
He’s been extremely hot lately, going 18-for-27 (.667) in Metea Valley’s last seven games. He’s making pitchers work, too. He has walked more times (14) than he’s struck out (nine).
“I think the difference with Sam is his overall confidence,” Tomczak said. “Last year he didn’t play the first eight or nine games, but we had an injury and he got a chance. He had a solid season (.309, 18 runs), but I still don’t think he was comfortable with the mechanical changes we made.”
That comfort level is apparent.
“Last year he tried to jump on the first fastball he’d see even if it wasn’t the best one,” Tomczak said. “Now, he doesn’t mind hitting 0-2 or 1-2, and his walks have gone up because of that. He’s been a great catalyst for where we’re at. Without him leading off, I’m not sure where we’d be.”
Initially, Hanson wasn’t sure if he liked batting leadoff. Now, there’s no place he’d rather be.
“I didn’t know how I’d like it, but now I absolutely love it,” he said. “I love being the first guy to face their pitcher, and then having my guys knock me in.”