David Thompson said he doesn’t really have any “superstitions.”
“I think more of that as being in a routine — a certain routine — and sticking to what you do,” the nation’s co-leader in home runs (19) and outright leader in RBI (80) said Monday, moments after learning that he and his University of Miami teammates would be opening the NCAA tournament at home Friday against neighborhood rival FIU (29-29).
Lately, Thompson’s routine has included pitcher Thomas Woodrey helping him adjust his pant legs.
“He likes to pull them down for me or however he feels like doing them that day,” Thompson said.
Up, down or right in the middle, it doesn’t really seem to matter how much of his orange or green socks we get to see. Thompson is raking.
His 80 RBI are the fifth-most in a single season by a Hurricane, trailing Mike Fiore’s 83 (1988), Darren Mandel’s 88 (1984), Jason Michaels’ 89 (1997) and Aubrey Huff’s 95 (1998).
Thompson’s 19 homers, meanwhile, rank just outside UM’s top 10 for single-season totals. But Phil Lane, who set the school record with 25 homers in 1982, is well within reach, especially when you consider Thompson belted three homers in one game against Georgia Tech on May 15.
“I thought he should have been Player of the Year in the ACC, but he’s listed as one of the top 21 players in the country,” UM coach Jim Morris said Monday.
“Incidentally, the guy that got [the ACC Player of the Year award, Wake Forest’s Will Craig] is not on that list. David’s had as good a year as anybody in the country.”
Thompson, batting .335 (ninth in the ACC) with a .683 slugging percentage (ninth nationally), is hardly complaining. He is just happy to finally be healthy and contributing like the player Morris envisioned he would be when Thompson broke all of Alex Rodriguez’s records at Westminster Christian and set the state high school records for homers in a season (19) and career (55).
Last December, when he had minor surgery to remove cartilage from his left elbow, Thompson worried he might not ever break free from his run of injuries.
It was the fourth time doctors had to slice him open to fix something since he left high school.
The first two times it was to repair his throwing shoulder, subsequently ending any thoughts he had that he might also be able to play quarterback for UM’s football team.
Then, last year, Thompson was diagnosed with a blood clot and thoracic outlet syndrome. He missed 32 games and came into this season with a combined six homers and 61 RBI over his first two years.
But 2015 has been totally different.
“It definitely hurt knowing I wasn’t at my full potential or as healthy as I could be,” Thompson said of his first two seasons. “So it’s just been a lot of fun to finally be healthy.”
Healthy — and part of a dangerous, balanced lineup. UM (44-19) enters this weekend’s regional tournament, which also features American Athletic Conference champion East Carolina (40-20) and Ivy League champion Columbia (31-15), with the second-most runs scored (490) in the nation, the fifth-highest team batting average (.315) and the 12th-most homers (59).
The Hurricanes hit just .257 with 332 runs scored and 25 homers a year ago.
“The guys most improved in my mind are guys like Garrett Kennedy behind the plate,” Morris said. “He’s had a tremendous year offensively. He’s always been a catch-and-throw guy. Last year, his junior year, he did not have a good year offensively. This year is just the opposite. He’s been on fire. He’s gotten some big hits for us.
“Transfer [George] Iskenderian is [second in] the conference in batting average [.379]. We’ve had a lot of guys that have had some big years for us and some guys that are hot like [Jacob] Heyward that are in the lineup now, playing well.”
Morris said he hopes his team, winners of 14 of its past 15 games, is peaking at the right time.
The only key player who enters this weekend’s regional tournament on a bit of a slide is closer Bryan Garcia, who blew two save opportunities at last weekend’s ACC tournament.
Morris hadn’t decided as of Tuesday who would start Friday against FIU or if Garcia would continue as the closer. But he knows he has a lot of options. Morris said the only thing he knew for sure was he would be starting a lefty.
Miami’s staff owns a much better ERA at home (2.44) than on the road (4.09). Its 31-4 record at home was the best in the country.
“Our pitching has been good,” Morris said. “Cooper Hammond has been lights out. Mike Mediavilla, our top freshman, really had an outstanding year. Woodrey has pitched good. [Andy] Suarez has pitched good. [Danny] Garcia pitched good, won some games. [Enrique] Sosa won six games. I think we have a well-rounded pitching staff.
“We have a lot of things going well. We’re not depending on one guy to hit or one guy to pitch. We can steal a base when we need to. We can hit some home runs. We can get a strikeout. We have a good bullpen. We have all the things it takes to hopefully win.”