After hitting a total of two homeruns in the first 117 games of his career at EMU, Kyle Mathews (Chesapeake, Va./Great Bridge) erupted last week and cleared the fence five times over a four-game stretch. Individually, the senior is going out in style with his best season in Harrisonburg.
Heading into the final weekend of the baseball year, Kyle has already beaten every previous season-best total. He is hitting .415 with 59 hits, 31 runs, 31 RBIs. His previous highs were 42 hits, 19 runs and 24 RBIs. And in the case of doubles (13), triples (4) and homeruns (5), he has as many this year as he did in all three of his preceding seasons combined.
The recent power surge surprised Kyle.
“I was just trying to see the ball up and put a good swing on it,” he explained. “I do not consider myself as much of a homerun hitter so it was somewhat of a shock but it was fun to have happen.”
A four-year regular at either first base or leftfield, his breakout final season has been a welcome relief after inconsistent sophomore and junior campaigns. This year, the question has rarely been if Kyle will get a hit, but rather how many hits he will get. He enters the final weekend on a 21-game hitting streak, and has hit safely in 34 of the Royals’ 36 games, including 19 multi-hit outings.
Kyle said he has been focused in his work off the field.
“I’ve prepared for my final year by staying in Harrisonburg playing summer ball in the County League and by doing our summer weightlifting program,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I took anything more seriously than I always have, but I definitely was more focused knowing that this was it.”
Coach Ben Spotts said Kyle’s hard work is evident.
“Kyle has had a great year for us offensively and has provided consistency in the middle of our lineup,” said Coach Spotts. “His development as a hitter in his four years in our program has really led to a successful senior year that has also developed into a power threat at the plate. It is exciting to see the hard work and maturity of Kyle as a hitter in our program pay off as he ends his career at EMU.”
Although officially out of the ODAC playoff race, Eastern Mennonite has a chance to notch a couple of big accomplishments with their three road games this weekend.
“We are trying to get these last three wins for our program,” said Kyle. “We have the opportunity to finish the season with a winning record so that is the main goal for us at this point. It will be great for our program to have a winning season.”
EMU has had just one winning campaign since 2002, finishing 20-19 in 2014 when Kyle was a freshman.
The Royals wrap up with a doubleheader at Lynchburg on Saturday, following a rescheduled contest Friday’s afternoon at Bridgewater College. EMU won the year’s first contest between the rivals, 10-5. With a win Friday, the men would not only get their first win in Bridgewater since 2006, but also secure what would likely be the first-ever sweep of the traditional powerhouse in the 49-year history of the Eastern Mennonite baseball program.
While all of that would be nice for the program, Kyle said his personal takeaway from playing baseball at EMU would simply be the friendships he has built, including those with his 12-man senior class.
“I will take all the relationships I have been able to make from this year,” he commented. “It is great to be a part of a team and build many relationships with teammates and coaches that will last for a lifetime.”