When going to Junction City Brigade games this summer, there’s one name consistently appearing in the lineup at the top of the order.
That’s a middle infielder from Cowley College — Carson Sader.
The Olathe native is playing in his first season with the Brigade, having just completed his freshman year with the Tigers. He typically takes the field at shortstop and bats second in the lineup, and according to his manager, always seems to find a way to get on base.
“He’s been a sparkplug for us,” manager Derek Francis said. “He hits at the top of the lineup day in and day out.”
Sader can do it all. He hits for power and can be a run-producer (one home run, nine RBI this season), but he attributes his style of play to being more of a “contact-speed” guy.
“I just try to hit the holes, and if the infielder does end up getting something on the ground, I’ll try and beat it out and use my speed,” Sader said.
His speed has been evident in the first half of the Mid-Plains League season. Sader has stolen 13 bases and has yet to be caught stealing.
He’s hitting 0.414 for the Brigade with a team-leading 27 hits and 24 runs. Yet he’s shown the ability to hit for power, too — he leads the team with 20 RBI, has hit four doubles and even smashed a home run.
At Cowley, Sader started as a designated hitter, as the team had two sophomore middle infielders starting. As the season went on, however, his bat translated to appearances in the field,
“When one started to struggle, I would go in and try to fill their spot, kind of push them to get better,” Sader said.
He finished his freshman season batting 0.275 with 28 RBI. He hit five doubles, six triples, and stole six bases. One thing he struggled with, though, was strikeouts. He struck out 30 times in 120 at-bats (one every four at-bats), and Sader specifically wanted to work on cutting those strikeouts down in Mid-Plains League play.
“In college, I was struggling a little with that,” he said. “I wanted to try to be more of a contact guy.”
And so far, it’s seemed to be working. In 63 at-bats this season, Sader has struck out just nine times — or, once every seven at-bats.
“I have just been seeing the ball really well,” Sader said. “I’ve been seeing fastballs and getting them.”
There has been another challenge for the young infielder this season, though. Typically, he’s slotted as a second baseman, but for the Brigade, he’s a regular shortstop, a position he hasn’t played since high school.
“The transition back to shortstop hasn’t been a problem,” Francis said. “He’s really good over there. He’s steady-handed and being everything we’d hope he’d be.”
Sader agrees the transition hasn’t been difficult.
“I’ve had to learn to come get the ball a lot more than second base,” he said. “I have to get rid of it quicker because it’s a longer throw.”
In high school, Sader was an All-Sunflower League first-team selection his senior year.
As the season continues, Sader hopes his steady work will translate into a stellar sophomore season at Cowley College.
“I think a lot of at-bats this summer will definitely help seeing the ball,” he said. “It will help me get some timing down.”