Ask Jay Logwood why he's suddenly challenging for the NCAA Division I batting title after two decent but hardly great seasons, and he answers as if he's playing a different game.
"I'm seeing the ball so much better this year, it looks like a softball coming at me," said Logwood, a Towson State junior TC who plays leftfield. "I'm relaxed and having fun, and I feel comfortable when I'm at bat. Things are a lot easier this year."
Obviously. As a freshman fresh out of Randallstown High in 1990, Logwood played part-time and hit .224 for an equally sub-par Tigers team. Last year, when Towson State went to the NCAA tournament, a late-season slump brought his average down to .327.
Logwood has been superb this spring, and he took a .497 average into the East Coast Conference tournament at Mercer County (N.J.) Park that began today. The NCAA hitting crown is available, as Logwood is chasing Indiana's Mike Smith, the leader at .503, and Maryland's Derek Hacopian (.500).
As late as last spring, Logwood wasn't in that league, but now the art major knows that a productive month of May could add to a quandary regarding his future that has only recently developed.
"A year ago, I wasn't giving any thought to playing professionally," Logwood said. "The numbers I put up in my first two years of college were nothing spectacular. I was just another No. 5 hitter for a college team. Things have changed."
Logwood's development into a prospect for the June draft began after a productive summer of 1991 with Reisterstown's 18-and-over team. He had discovered the weight room when he went off to college, and there was added zeal to his workouts last fall. He's bigger -- 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds -- and stronger, and more relaxed, thanks to the knowledge that he'll be in the lineup every day.
"I had to learn to enjoy myself more," Logwood said. "When I was a freshman, I didn't know if I was going to play every day, and that affected me."
The doubts had begun in high school, as Logwood still appears irritated talking about his last Randallstown season, when he didn't meet high expectations. He's better equipped now to handle similar situations.
"Every time Jay goes up there, you expect him to get a hit," said second baseman Jacen Martinez, Towson State's second-leading hitter at .363. "He's not thinking about it, he's just swinging. The only problem is, when he goes 2-for-5, his average drops."
Logwood began the season hitting cleanup, but after first baseman Erik Sheetz struggled early, he moved to third in the order. He has school records of 77 hits and 51 runs. With team-highs of 15 home runs and 50 RBIs, Logwood is within range of the Towson State records Sheetz established last year, 17 and 60, respectively.
A typical late-season surge for coach Mike Gottlieb's Tigers, in which they have won 11 of 12, snatched the ECC's top seed away from UMBC. Towson State (28-17-1) opens the tournament against Hofstra. Second-seeded UMBC (34-9) plays Brooklyn and Central Connecticut meets host Rider in today's other games.
The double-elimination tournament is scheduled to conclude Sunday, and if Towson State is the last one standing, it will mean a third title and NCAA berth for the Tigers in five years. The last state team other than Towson State to make the NCAA Division I field was Navy, in 1986.
Jay Logwood at Towson State
Season Avg. HR RBI
1990 .. .. .224 ..4 .10
1991 .. .. .327 ..7 .31
1992 .. .. .497 .15 .50