116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MOUNT VERNON - Jimmy Lizarraga was determined to become a hitter.
The Mount Mercy senior devoted his time in the off-season to get better at the plate, studying and attempting to emulate professional batters. Then, he applied what he learned, working on it daily.
'That was my weakest link,” Lizarraga said. 'I just really wanted to improve that this year, so we could go out on a high note.”
The work has paid dividends. Lizarraga owned a .340 batting average before helping the Mustangs to a 10-2 victory over Cornell Thursday night at Ash Park. He delivered a two-run double in Mount Mercy's four-run fifth inning, giving the Mustangs the lead for good.
Jack Dahm is in his second season as Mount Mercy head coach. He has coached 20 seasons at NCAA Division I programs, consisting of 10 years each at Creighton and Iowa. Dahm praised Lizarraga's effort.
'He's worked as hard on his swing over the summer, fall and all winter long as any player I've ever had,” Dahm said. 'He's been very committed.”
Lizarraga has more than 20 RBIs and at least 15 extra-base hits for the Mustangs (28-11).
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson is his favorite hitter. He was one of the Major League Baseball players he watched, trying to gain more power to the opposite field. The right-hander demonstrated his progress, rapping a run-scoring hit to right field.
'I worked on that a lot in the off-season,” said Lizarraga, noting he focused on getting the bat barrel in the strike zone longer. 'You can get good results like that.”
Dahm was surprised by Lizarraga's baserunning ability when he took over. Lizarraga's athleticism has led to six stolen bases in eight attempts.
The impact is not limited to offense. The honorable mention all-Midwest Collegiate Conference selection in 2015 is a leader from his catching position. Dahm trusts him to handle the pitching staff, allowing him to call pitches.
'He's got a great feel for calling a game,” said Dahm. 'He's got a very bright future in baseball.”
Lizarraga said he embraces that role.
'I love calling the game, understanding pitch sequences and how to get people out,” Lizarraga said. 'Our pitchers have done a good job so far of executing the game plan.”
Baseball has been a big part of life for Lizarraga, who was a multisport athlete at Cedar Rapids Kennedy and has helped as a baseball assistant coach at his alma mater. He takes pride in being a student of the sport.
'I try to learn more about the game each day,” Lizarraga said. 'Whether I'm studying hitters, pitchers or watching an MLB game in general, I take that into consideration, trying to improve my game.”
l Comments: (319) 368-8679; firstname.lastname@example.org