ATHENS, Ga. — Baseball is a largely mental game. When things are going poorly and a player gets down on himself, results can flee quickly even for a player as talented as Tennessee second baseman Christian Moore. Head coach Tony Vitello believes that’s what happened to the sophomore during a two-of-31 stretch at the plate that spanned over 10 SEC games last month.
“I think his frustration caused a little bit of a downward spiral which it’s hard as a baseball player,” Vitello said Friday night. “There’s a lot of repetitions, so when it’s not going well for more than a few in a row that can happen to these kids— they get frustrated.”
But when a player as talented as Moore gets a taste of success it can snowball and lead to a ridiculous stretch of production. Moore is in the midst of that right now and it continued in a big way as the sophomore left the yard twice in Tennessee’s 12-3 series opening win at Georgia Friday night.
It continued a remarkable four-game stretch where the middle infielder has gone ballistic offensively. Dating back to Tennessee’s game two win over Mississippi State, Moore is hitting seven-of-18 (.389) with six home runs and 11 RBIs.
“CMo (Christian Moore) always has that power,” outfielder Hunter Ensley said. “He’s just putting great swings on the ball, hunting pitches and getting them. But I mean, it puts runs up on the board. He probably had what, 4 or 5 RBIs tonight? It was huge for the offense.”
It was just three RBIs for Moore Friday night but they were loud ones. His two-run homer in the seventh inning would have cleared all three levels of porches at Lindsey Nelson Stadium and opened up Tennessee’s lead to 6-1. His solo homer in the ninth inning was a lined shot to center that left the yard in a hurry.
Moore is producing at a stellar rate over the last week and while the power numbers won’t continue at this insane rate, the Brooklyn native is talented enough to be one of the better bats in the SEC.
So what’s changed for Moore over the last week? He credits a conversation with assistant coach Josh Elander for helping him approve his approach.
“I was just trying to rush a lot,” Moore said following the Mississippi State series. “Just wasn’t calm and cool up there. I was trying to rush a lot to pitches. Just staying to much approach and doing what I do. I think that was the switch for me, getting back in that mental space of I know who I am and I know what I can do. Just go out there and do it.”
Like with Moore’s struggles, Vitello points to the mindset when discussing his improved play over the last week.
“Just kind of started playing I believe on that Sunday like he did against Mississippi State with that loose attitude,” Vitello said. “Again, our guys have their own personalities so I don’t think he’s ever going to be as goofy as Blake Burke but it is nice to see him have his intent focus but at the same time relax and play a kids game here.”
Moore is now up to 12 home runs on the season (second on the team) and 37 RBIs. The second baseman’s 1.065 OPS is third on the team of players that are qualified. Tennessee’s offense is finding its groove and Moore is a major reason why.
Baseball is a game of failure and Moore will face struggles again at some point this season but his bat is as hot as anyone else’s on the team and the Vols are reaping the benefits of it.