HOUSTON—After Landon Lassiter made two errors Friday against Rice, giving him six on the season, North Carolina coach Mike Fox admitted a little concern about his defense, but he stuck by his freshman shortstop.
"I'm trying to give Landon the opportunity. Really I don't want to take him off the field—it's a confidence thing," Fox said. "But at some point we've got to be a little bit better there in the middle, especially when we've got a guy out there (on the mound) making teams put the ball in play. We've got to figure that out."
So Fox had a little chat with Lassiter after Friday's game, and when the coach handed in his lineup card Saturday against California, Lassiter's name was there, batting second and playing shortstop. He responded with four hits, two runs—and no errors, as UNC cruised to an 11-5 win.
"Get him back on the field—it's really important to do that when they're young and confidence is shaken a little bit," Fox said. "He's a good offensive player is why we've got to have him in there, and he showed that today. We've just got to work through it, it's a confidence thing. I've tried to reward these kids by putting them back out there, then you hope a couple more balls get hit at them and they make plays.
"I said 'Hey, I'm putting you right back out there.' Sometimes you hear guys say, 'Well, how do you know that coach has confidence in me?' Well, your name's in the lineup, it's as simple as that."
Fox said Lassiter played well at short in the fall and early spring. Lassiter said adjusting to the speed of the college game hasn't been a problem—but building up arm strength has been.
"My arm's been giving me trouble," Lassiter said. "I've been throwing a lot more than I have. I've got to concentrate—I've done it my whole life. Usually I've been a really good defender. Just get better every day and just work at it."
Freshmen Lassiter and Bolt have been UNC's two best hitters through nine games, as Bolt leads the team with a .455 average while Lassiter is second at .414. Lassiter also has seven walks and just four strikeouts, and he showed off his ability to drive the gaps Saturday, ripping an RBI triple into right-center during UNC's eight-run fourth. The righthanded-hitting Lassiter used all fields Saturday, singling to shortstop, left field and right field. That bat, which is such a great fit in the No. 2 hole, is certain to keep him in the lineup, and there is reason to believe he will settle in defensively.
"He stays inside the ball with his hands," Fox said. "He's really got an unorthodox swing, because he dives in over the plate badly, but then he's able to kind of hit around balls. Some balls I've thrown to him in BP, I don't know how in the world he keeps them fair, but he can hit the ball to all fields, and I think that's what's going to make him a good hitter."
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