PCA’s Simms finds a way to get on base|[05/03/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

Robbie Simms has hit a couple of home runs in his high school career, but he’ll never be mistaken for Babe Ruth. In fact, if Simms is doing his job right, he rarely hits the ball out of the infield.

Simms, Porters Chapel’s leadoff man, was batting .396 entering this week’s MPSA Class AA playoff series with Central Private. Of his 40 hits, 33 were singles – and about 20 of those came on bunts and infield hits.

&#8220Whenever I come into the game, I want to hit and smash because everybody else is. But if things aren’t going my way I know I can put it in play and use my speed,” Simms said. &#8220It’s like a second life when you get up there and can’t pick up the ball real well. You can say, ‘Next time, I’m just going to bunt.’”

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Calling Simms a light hitter is an honest assessment. Last season, as a junior, he earned playing time with his defensive skills in the outfield but PCA coach Randy Wright opted to use a designated hitter instead of letting Simms bat.

That was the plan again this year, until Wright relented in preseason practice and stuck Simms in the No. 9 spot in the lineup for the season-opener.

Over the first half of the season, Simms found his niche. He worked on drag bunts and slapping the ball down the line against deep infields, then using his speed to beat out throws. His ability to get on base and bridge the gap to PCA’s heavy hitters at the top of the order was a valuable weapon for the team.

Halfway through the season, with leadoff man Cole Smith struggling and Simms hitting well over .400, Wright made another move. He moved Simms, with his handful of career at-bats before the season, to the leadoff spot.

&#8220I just switched them to get him more at-bats, because we need as much speed on the basepaths as we can get,” Wright said. &#8220He’s definitely exceeded our expectations as far as hitting. For it to be his first year hitting, he’s done a tremendous job for us. He’s definitely our most improved player.”

Wright also gave Simms the green light to bunt for a hit whenever he saw the opportunity. Simms credited Wright for showing him how to lay down a good bunt, and said he feels he can do it any time he needs to.

&#8220Coach Wright taught me how to do everything, and do it the right way,” Simms said. &#8220Bunting is just like second nature now.”

Simms has made contributions in other ways as well. He’s found a spot as one of PCA’s pitchers, as an inning-eating reliever with a rubber arm. The junkballing left-hander, who is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA in 21 1/3 innings this season, said he worked as hard on pitching in the offseason as he did on learning to hit.

&#8220It’s been exciting to get those innings on the mound. Last year, I didn’t pitch but I couldn’t throw strikes,” he said. &#8220This year, I made it a point that even if I don’t throw but 50 mph I’m going to hit those spots.”

And Simms’ fastball is, in fact, much closer to 50 mph than 90. But even that may have its uses. Wright was toying with the idea of starting Simms in Game 2 against Central Private, in order to keep the Rebels off-balance after they faced fireballer Michael Busby in Game 1.

If he does get the ball, Simms said he didn’t think he’d last more than two or three innings before the Rebels start hitting his fastball like it was batting practice. But he also had confidence he could get the job done for a few innings.

&#8220It’s going to be funny, because they don’t have a clue. A slow lefty, we’re going to rock him,” Simms said. &#8220But I can tell you from experience, it’s hard to hit a lefty.”