SIU's Kopach builds on successful summer with strong spring
For Connor Kopach, less worry has led to more success in baseball and less concentration on statistics.
“I think I'm just not worrying about stats as much and just playing for the team and trying to help the team win,” Kopach, a junior second baseman for Southern Illinois, told the Southwest Illinois News. “I mean, that's about what I'm trying to do now. When I first got here, I tried to worry about stats and trying to keep average above 300, so now I'm just taking it as one step at a time and trying to help the team win.”
Of course, good statistical output is key to team victories, and Kopach has definitely helped in that regard. As of April 21, Kopach was in the top 10 in numerous Missouri Valley Conference categories. Among his rankings, he led the league with 22 stolen bases, which was eight more than his nearest competitor, Luke Shadid of Bradley; tied for second in triples with third; seventh in runs scored with 33; and tied for seventh in hits with 46 and doubles with 11.
Kopach's averages have increased across the board. He was batting .303 with a .474 slugging percentage and .395 on-base percentage. Last season, his numbers in those categories were .287, .422 and .395, respectively.
“I think have just been seeing the ball a lot better and putting better swings on the baseball and just relaxing at the plate and not really caring what my stats look like — just trying to help the team,” he said.
Kopach, a Westmont, Illinois, native and graduate of Downers Grove North High School, was already building on an excellent sophomore season at SIU, having been All-MVC Honorable Mention in 2016. Last summer, he added a strong showing in the Northwoods League to his resume. Playing for the Kalamazoo Growlers in Michigan, Kopach had a league-high and -record 50 stolen bases. He was selected by Major League Baseball scouts to play in the league's Major League Dreams Showcase.
Kopach ended up batting .286 with six home runs, 60 runs scored and 27 RBIs in 67 games for the Growlers.
Kopach said his summer-league experience has carried over to this season as he learned to be “not worrying about striking out as much and just going out and playing the game.”
Kopach's journey in baseball began with T-ball when he was growing up and continued through his high-school career, which included All-State Honorable Mention status.
“I think it's just a challenging sport, getting a challenge out of it and how it's the hardest sport to play,” he said about what he likes best about baseball.
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