|April 20, 2005|
Jenkins powering Mountaineers' surge
By Andrew Worob
MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University baseball player Justin Jenkins was never a power hitter. Not while attending Frankfort High School, and not at Potomac State College, where he played his freshman year.
But now a sophomore playing in his first season as the Mountaineers' starting third baseman, the Ridgeley product has established himself as one of the team's top hitters.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jenkins leads WVU in most offensive categories and, through Mondayýs games, ranked fifth in the Big East in hits (48), first in doubles (14) and was tied for second in home runs (eight) and total bases (88).
"I didn't expect the type of success I've been having," Jenkins said. "It's been surprising to me because I was never a home-run hitter. I've just always tried to make contact."
One person who isn't surprised by Jenkins' success is WVU coach Greg Van Zant.
"I thought he was a real good hitter when I first saw him as a junior in high school," Van Zant said. " I thought he'd hit for power because heýs a big kid and the ball just jumps off his bat.
"He's hit the ball real well and has given us some much-needed power in the middle of the lineup."
Despite starting off the year 4-11, the Mountaineers have won five of their last eight games. The team is 16-21 and 5-8 in Big East play, good for seventh place.
"Everything has just started to come together lately," Jenkins said. "The pitching has picked up, we're hitting better now, playing better defense, and the coaching staff has done an amazing job keeping our confidence up."
After being an all-state selection during his high school years, Jenkins decided to enroll in a junior college and try to improve his game. He went to Potomac State and earned first-team all-region honors in 2003 under former WVU assistant coach Doug Little.
He then decided to move to Morgantown, major in business administration and see what baseball has in store for him.
"I had some schools contact me, but WVU was the best place for me," Jenkins said. "I liked Coach Van Zant and the other coaches, and wanted to play for them."
Prior to enrolling at WVU, though, Jenkins had left shoulder surgery and was not able practice until August. Then, once back on the diamond, Jenkins found it difficult to regain his form.
"My confidence wasn't down, but it made me want to work harder and my determination was higher,"Jenkins said. "I just wanted to get back and help the team."
His hard work during practice and in the weight room helped overcome frustration.
"I was a little skeptical in the fall and wasn't happy with how I was hitting,"Jenkins said. ýWhen I finally started hitting, everything came back to me. I just started getting in a groove and have been steady."