The temptation to pull the ball all the time is a mighty one for Cypress College’s Terry Tewell.
At 6-feet-2 and 200 pounds, he looks like a power hitter.
His added strength--due to an off-season weightlifting program--also suggests that he should be driving the ball over the fence often.
Tewell, a right-handed hitting catcher, admits his total of six home runs is a bit bothersome. After all, it is the same number he hit last season as a freshman.
Tewell’s batting average has been as high as .364 this season, but it has fallen 20 points mostly because he is trying to hard to pull the ball.
Tewell is hitting .344 for Cypress with 39 runs batted in, but he and Coach Scott Pickler agree he could improve.
“When he uses the whole field and doesn’t try to pull everything, he’s a much better hitter,” Pickler said. “Sometimes he goes with the pitch really well and other times he tries to pull too much. That’s when he goes into a slump.”
The rest of the Orange Empire Conference knows Tewell likes to pull, so he seldom gets a fastball over the plate unless it’s by mistake. Instead, Tewell sees a lot of offspeed pitches and fastballs on the outside half of the plate.
But going with the pitch is just one of the many things Tewell is working on this season. He also is improving his defensive skills and his role as a team leader.
Tewell has done well this season throwing out runners; only 17 of 53 stolen base attempts have been successful.
Last season, leadership abounded as the Chargers won the conference championship with Tewell as the lone starting freshman. But the eight teammates that joined him in the starting lineup this season were all freshmen.
“It was pretty tough to take charge out there at first,” Tewell said. “I’m a pretty quiet guy and it’s hard for me, but I’m getting better at it.”
To assume the leader’s role, Tewell had to curb his play-to-play frustrations in favor of a more mature approach.
“I’ve stopped living from at-bat to at-bat,” he said. “I now understand that I have at least four at-bats to get things done and try to learn from each chance.”
Tewell, a 1987 graduate of Edison High School, started his college career at Orange Coast but left there after he was switched to third base.
“If I’m going to make it in the pros or at a Division I school, it will have to be as a catcher, so I moved here (Cypress),” Tewell said. “But OCC was great. Coach (Mike) Mayne taught me a lot about the position (of catcher).”
He had to sit out the 1988 season at Cypress because the second semester had started when he transferred. In 1989, he hit .316 with six home runs and was an all-conference selection.
Tewell was a late-round pick of the Phillies last summer, but the team had no serious intention of signing him. Instead, they were interested in his rights and have until the June 4 draft to sign him.
“I want to make sure I have college taken care of for next year,” said Tewell, who is being recruited by Cal State Fullerton. “After that, I will hopefully have a decision to make.”
Slim lead: While Rancho Santiago needed to win only one of its last two games to claim the Orange Empire Conference title over second-place Golden West, the race for third is much closer.
Fullerton (21-13, 11-10 in conference) holds a half-game lead over Riverside (26-14, 11-11). The third-place team likely will earn a playoff berth; the fourth-place team will have to hope the overall strength of the conference earns it a playoff spot.
Fullerton plays at Cypress today, at Orange Coast Thursday and plays host to Rancho Santiago Saturday.
Riverside plays host to Saddleback today, has a bye Thursday and plays at Cypress Saturday.
Speaking of the playoffs: The ever-changing baseball playoff format is different again this season. The last two seasons, 14 teams reached the playoffs; this year, 16 teams will be entered.
The six conference winners and 10 other teams will advance to the first round, which starts May 11.
The teams will be seeded May 7 into best-of-three matchups at the site of the higher-seeded team. The top team will play the 16th-seeded team, No. 2 will play No. 15, and so on.
There will be a single game Friday, followed by one or two Saturday. The eight winners will advance to the double-elimination regionals May 18-20 at Riverside and Cerritos.
The winner of each regional will advance to the state tournament May 25-27 at UC Irvine, where they will face the top two teams from Northern California.