Cody Roberts is a player with a big arm who can play catcher and right field, according to the North Carolina baseball team’s game notes.
Recently, though, Roberts’ impact has been felt in the batter’s box.
In the first game of a Friday doubleheader, Roberts delivered with three hits and an RBI in a 16-8 Tar Heel victory over the No. 6 Seminoles.
Despite his team losing the back end of the doubleheader, 6-3, and Sunday's rubber match, 9-4, the junior catcher finished 6-13 at the plate, including a lead-off home run, six runs and three walks.
“He’s seeing it like a beach ball,” first baseman Michael Busch said of Roberts' recent hitting numbers.
Roberts hasn’t always been a star at the plate. In 2017, the Georgia native had a .268 average, .374 slugging percentage and .371 on-base percentage. This season has brought an increase in all three of those categories.
Roberts currently holds a .337 average to go along with an impressive .438 on-base percentage. He ranks second on UNC (14-10, 5-4 ACC) in both categories.
“He’s experienced,” head coach Mike Fox said. “He’s a lot better of a hitter than he was his first two years here, so that’s good to see. We need to continue to get some offense from him.”
Not only has Roberts seen a change in his offensive production, he has also taken on the responsibility of becoming the Tar Heels’ leadoff hitter. Roberts said he has never hit leadoff for a team before until he placed into that role last weekend against Pittsburgh.
“I was kind of surprised when he put me up there,” Roberts said of his coach's decision. “I’ve been having good at-bats and stuff. I think he just wanted me up there just to see if I could continue to have good at-bats maybe jumpstart the team, so it’s worked out so far.”
The move by Fox has certainly paid dividends. In the seven games since Roberts has moved to leadoff, he has totaled 11 hits and five walks along with six RBIs. He also has reached base in 15 of the past 16 games.
“I just try to keep the same approach,” Roberts said. “I feel like there’s a lot of responsibility on me. If I have a good at-bat, it seems like the rest of the guys follow. They say hitting is contagious, and so that’s all really I’m trying to do there. If they throw me a fastball, I’ll just try to jump on it early, try to show the other team that we’re here to hit.”
As the leadoff hitter, it is Roberts’ job to get on-base, so that the batter following him can drive in runs. To his teammates’ delight, he done exactly that, scoring nine runs in his past five games.
“I don’t know how long he’s been leading off in his career, but like today, starting us off with a home run is always nice,” Busch said. “That goes unnoticed after a loss like this, but we were a couple plays away from taking that game and winning that series.”
Busch had an incredible week at the plate himself. In four games this week, Busch hit three home runs and 10 RBIs.
In addition to his power, Busch has shown an ability to stay patient at the plate. The sophomore drew six walks and was hit by a pitch in the series against Florida State (20-5, 5-4 ACC).
“They were just making good pitches, and I was just laying off of them more than I usually do,” Busch said. “Maybe they were throwing a little more off-speed that second game, but they were still right around the zone and I was just seeing the ball well this weekend.”
Busch said he hasn’t changed his approach in the batter’s box at all, but he certainly had a weekend to remember.
“Michael just had an incredible day,” Fox said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy get on base 10 times in one day. That was pretty spectacular.”
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.