Things got so bad at the plate for Stan Rowe early last season that the Plant High baseball player thought it was certain he was going to swing his way right out of the lineup.
He was mired in an early-season slump and hitting just .200 through his first nine games. His lack of production at the plate led to a loss of confidence. To make matters worse, he was occasionally lifted in favor of a pinch-hitter or out of the lineup altogether with the designated hitter taking his spot.
"I was beating myself up over it because I wasn't hitting well. It just got in my head that I couldn't hit. Once that happened, it was just downhill," Rowe said.
A pep talk from his coach, Dennis Braun, went a long way toward Rowe turning things around, and the Panthers slugger hasn't slowed down and is one of Hillsborough County's hottest hitters to start the 2010 season.
"Something finally clicked," Rowe said.
The nature of that discussion, Braun said, was to help Rowe deal with his "demons," a term the coach used to emphasize a young hitter's approach at the plate that is altered because of a lack of success or fear of doing something wrong. Braun wanted Rowe to maintain an aggressive approach and not be disheartened if he chased a bad pitch on occasion or fell into a slump.
"It's like a lot of other guys out here. If they can get past that, most of them are pretty talented and they can end up hitting, but if they're afraid and always worried about what they look like at the plate then that's what happens," Braun said. "You see that a lot in high school. I think once they kind of get over that hump where (they say) 'I'm going to come up here and I'm going to hit a ball hard' instead of worrying about a strikeout or making an out, I think the sky is the limit for a lot of them. And I think he's finally figured that part out."
Rowe hit safely in 17 of his final 21 games in 2009 and ended the season with a .372 average with four home runs and 20 RBIs. He's not only picked up in 2010 where he left off last season, but also elevated his offensive output.
Rowe was hitting .457 (16-for-35) through the Panthers' first 12 games with a county-best seven home runs and 25 RBIs, gaudy numbers highlighted by consecutive big games against Robinson (March 20) and Chamberlain (March 22), when he hit two three-run homers in each Plant victory.
"It's really nice to see Stan (having success) because I don't think Stan has always been ultra-talented as a hitter, but he's really worked hard to get where he is," Braun said. "He's really worked hard for everything he's gotten."
That work ethic led to a scholarship offer from Georgetown, which Rowe accepted with a verbal commitment, planning to sign in April. What's interesting about that is that Rowe is headed to the Hoyas as a pitcher.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander made an impression on Georgetown coaches with his work on the mound the past two summers with his AAU team, the All American Prospects. According to Rowe, Hoyas coaches have never seen him hit.
Rowe, who threw 211/3 innings for Plant in 2009 and was the most experienced pitcher returning this season, joked he might send his future coaches an e-mail to let them know about his exploits at the plate, hoping it might persuade them to occasionally stick a bat in his hands.
"I really would like to hit in college," he said with a laugh.
If Rowe keeps up this pace with the Panthers, he very well could swing his way into the Hoyas lineup.