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Orange County Player of the Week : Once Richards Backed Off, His Batting Average Took Off

Once Fullerton High School senior T.J. Richards decided to listen to the advice he was offered, he started to hit.

Assistant coach Ed Hart and catcher John Mele noticed Richards had moved too far forward in the batter’s box and was also too close to the plate.

Richards wasn’t making solid contact with the big part of the bat. Every time he hit the ball, it was off the handle.

“Coach Hart and Mele were bugging me to move off the plate for a couple of weeks while I was in a slump,” Richards said. “Once I listened to them, I moved back in the box and got my front foot about eight inches off the plate and it worked. I started to hit again.”

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Richards broke a three-game slump Wednesday, getting five hits in his first five at-bats in Fullerton’s 6-2 win over La Habra. Richards also drove in five runs. He had a chance at a six-hit game, but La Habra shortstop John Robertson made a good play on his ground ball and threw him out at first base.

On Friday, Richards had three more hits, including a three-run home run. The right fielder also came in to pitch with one out in the top of the seventh, the score tied, 6-6, and a runner on first.

Richards, The Times’ Player of the Week, recorded two strikeouts, and Fullerton scored in the bottom of the seventh to give him the victory.

“Either I have an exceptional game or I go 1 for 6, that’s just the way this season seems to go,” Richards said. “Stepping back worked like a charm. I just swing, a lot of times the pitch is not a strike, it just looks good.”

Richards hits leadoff for Fullerton and has only eight walks in 80 at-bats.

“We teach our hitters that the pitcher does not want to be behind in the count, 1-0,” Coach Dave Torres said. “Our philosophy is to swing the bat, one through nine in the batting order, and T.J. does that. He’s very aggressive and once he made that adjustment getting away from the plate, he started to hit well again.”

T.J. Richards

Fullerton High School

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Position: Right fielder/pitcher

Height, Class: 6-0, Sr.

Last Week: Was 8 for 10, with eight RBIs in Fullerton’s two wins over La Habra. Was 5 for 6 in a 16-2 win on Wednesday. Hit a three-run home run and got the win in the Indians’ 7-6 victory Friday.

Season: Is hitting .400 (32-80), scored 28 runs, has 15 stolen bases and is 2-0 pitching.

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