Morgan McCasland’s potent bat in the middle of the Highlands University line-up has helped the Cowboys to the top of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Plains Division baseball standings.
But it’s his work behind the plate that has really caught the attention of coach Steve Jones.
McCasland, a junior from Farmington who is in his first year at Highlands after transferring from New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, leads the conference in home runs with nine. And his 24 RBI are also among the leaders in the conference.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Jones said. “We expected pretty good offensive numbers out of him, but I didn’t know that he would have nine homers at this point. And that his batting average would be .343. But more than anything, he’s provided us a solid guy behind the dish catching.”
The coach said McCasland has the potential to play baseball professionally once his days at Highlands are done. “I’ve talked with a few scouts; we’ve had a few watching him,” Jones said.
Getting that opportunity is something McCasland has dreamed of achieving.
“That would be awesome,” said McCasland, whose older brother Jake is a pitcher in the S.F. Giants organization. “That’s one of my big dreams, to get to play pro baseball.”
Actually, he in part owes his prowess behind the plate to his brother.
“Jake always was a pitcher so I grew up catching him,” he said with a chuckle.
McCasland has committed just two errors for the season and thrown out 13 of 39 base runners.
And that number would be even higher if the pitching were improved, Jones said.
“More often than not, when they have stolen on him, he hasn’t had a chance to throw them out,” he said. “He’s got a very strong arm. If we did a better job of getting the ball to the plate in a timely fashion, I’m 100 percent sure he would have a better success rate.”
And McCasland is improving his ability to work with his pitchers. “I think he calls the right pitch in the right locations, but we’ve had a hard time hitting those spots,” Jones said of the pitching.
As for hitting spots with a bat in his hands, McCasland is doing a pretty good job. He’s already bombed more homers than he had last season and he’s adjusted to a league where his favorite fastball is a mere rumor.
“Coach Jones has me in the four-hole (cleanp-up),” McCasland said. “I go up picturing hitting the ball hard, sitting on my pitch. If I hit a home run, good. If I get a hit, that’s good too. I’m just trying to go up there and hit the ball as hard I can.”
That’s one area that Jones is trying to refine on the slugger.
“He pretty much swings all out on every pitch,” Jones said. “It’s all or nothing with him. He’s very strong. His bat speed is very good. His swing gets a little long at times so he needs to shorten that up to have a chance at the next level … .
“If he can figure out how to shorten up that swing a little bit, his numbers will get even better.”