BASEBALL: Southridge grad Sani powering Central

Tri-City HeraldMay 2, 2013 

Kyle Sani expected to have a good year playing ball at Central Washington, but he never figured on anything like this.

The former Southridge standout catcher and linebacker is coming off a weekend in which he hit five home runs and drove in 11 runs in back-to-back doubleheaders with Montana State Billings.

Moreover, it is an extension of a three-week run in which he has 10 home runs in 59 at-bats, with 24 RBIs and a .441 average over 16 games.

“I’ve definitely never hit five home runs in a weekend before,” Sani said Wednesday night via telephone, two days before the Wildcats open their final regular-season series against Great Northwest Athletic Conference heavy Western Oregon in Ellensburg. “I had my first two multi-homer games the last two weeks, so that’s nice.”

Sani’s 17 home runs leads the nation among NCAA Division II sluggers this season and is tied for a school record with Brian Viafore (2003).

He also is sixth in the nation in total bases (122) and seventh in slugging percentage (.735).

He leads the GNAC in all three of those categories — the No. 2 home run guy has 12 — and is second in RBIs (48) and third in runs scored (38).

All that combined with a .343 average makes for a big-time season.

Sani has always been a good-hitting catcher, at Southridge in high school and at Walla Walla Community College before matriculating to Central.

Last season, he hit .322 and led the Wildcats in home runs and RBIs ... with six and 39.

So what’s been the key this year? Both Sani and longtime CWU coach Desi Storey said a critical batting eye has come into focus.

“With Kyle, he’s so strong, he’s pretty dangerous as a hitter anyway,” Storey said. “But he is starting to understand now what he is capable of doing when he’s pretty selective.”

Sani said he still is aggressive at the plate — “I’m definitely getting my hacks in with less than two strikes. I’m getting my money’s worth.”

But he has taken to heart some fundamental advice about staying back at the plate and staying inside the ball — not getting too extended with his swing.

“I’m just seeing the ball a lot better, cleaning up at-bats,” he said. “Discipline is an issue at the plate.”

At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Sani likely will get some attention come June in major league baseball’s draft. Good hitting catchers with power tend to do that.

Sani said he hasn’t talked to any scouts yet, but he sees them at games, recording everything. Viafore, by the way, was selected in the 28th round in 2003 by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

For now, Sani is content to keep his focus on Western Oregon this weekend and then the GNAC playoffs after that.

“I’m feeling good,” he said.

Notes: Hitting has been contagious at Central. Former Othello star Marc Garza, a teammate of Sani’s at Walla Walla CC, his second in the league in hitting at .367. And Sani’s former Southridge teammate, Tyler Roberts, is seventh in the GNAC in ERA (4.53). ... Also on the Central roster is pitcher Stinson Ott (Richland), who has seen some spot relief work. CWU has 13 players on the team from Eastern Washington.

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