Jared Dickey recorded a three-hit game for the eighth time this season and 12th time in his career Friday night in Tennessee’s series-opening win over Kentucky. The only negative for the redshirt sophomore is that he’s still searching for the elusive first four hit game of his career.
That’s the only thing not going Dickey’s way on the baseball field right now. The utility man is the epitome of consistency and the driving force for Tennessee’s rapidly improving offense.
“I think really the thing I focus on the most is having a good approach at the plate,” Dickey said Friday night. “As everybody knows most of my hits are ground balls up the middle. I think that’s a money maker for me simply because I can throw my hands at it and let my bat do the work pretty much.”
The results speak for themselves. Dickey is in the midst of an extended offensive tear that defies baseball logic. The left-handed bat enters Saturday’s game against Kentucky on a 13-game hitting streak, a 14-game SEC hitting streak and has multiple hits in seven of Tennessee’s last nine games.
Dickey’s level of consistency is mind boggling. Baseball is a game of failure and Dickey hasn’t left the ballpark with a disappointing performance in a month.
“I think it’s the hardest thing to do in baseball as a hitter at least. Everybody wants consistency,” veteran outfielder Griffin Merritt said of Dickey. “It is extremely difficult to do. Hats off to that guy. I think it is pretty easy to see why he is having so much success. He is willing to do whatever it is in that at-bat to be successful. … He is just a really good hitter. Consistency like you said is the hardest thing to do in this sport. When you have an approach like that, it gives you the best chance to be consistent. He is just a good hitter. He can do a lot of things. He has a lot of tools in his belt to be able to use. As a hitter, that is the best thing you can have.”
All of Dickey’s tools were on display Friday night. He beat the shift with “probably the best bunt I’ve ever laid down” in the first inning. He hit his fifth SEC homer in the Vols’ last 13 conference games in his second at-bat and singled up the middle on an 0-2 pitch in his third at-bat.
When teams shift Dickey he goes the other way or drops down a bunt. When they play him straight up he lines the ball up the middle or hits it over the right fielder’s head. There’s no effective way to attack Dickey because he has no true flaws at the plate. He is the embodiment of a professional hitter.
“I think it’s definitely a surprise,” Dickey said of teams shifting against him. “I’m very happy they’re doing it because they’re handing me those bunt singles. If they want to do it tomorrow, cool. If they don’t, I’ll just hit it up the middle I guess.”
Over the last 13 SEC games, Dickey is hitting .414 and has driven in 14 runs. The stretch replicates what Dickey did in the preseason. The Mount Juliet native described the baseball as “a beach ball” before the season. Vitello described the stretch as a “little bit out of control.”
Dickey’s success is a result of his natural batting instincts but also thorough and meticulous work.
“Here in the cage, not only does he take a ton of repetitions, but he has a plan, too,” Vitello said. “He’s not just in here swinging to swing. I’m sure there is someone on the team who has taken more swings, but I don’t know if there is someone who has done it with more intent and more of a specific plan than what he wants to accomplish.”
Tennessee’s offense has improved dramatically in the last month. There’s a number of players contributing to Tennessee averaging just over nine runs in its last 10 SEC games, but Dickey’s success is the constant.
There’s only one thing left for Dickey to prove.
“Let’s get four (hits) tomorrow,” Dickey says with a laugh.