Hudson Roberts hasn’t taken an at-bat from the right-handed batter’s box, yet, in his Ozark career. But the sophomore standout has experimented with switch-hitting in the past.
Roberts has topped the Tigers most of this season with a 370 batting average in his first go-around as a starter. He’s a highly-touted prospect who already has committed to Arkansas.
It figures that at some point over the next two seasons, or while he is at Arkansas, that he gives switch-hitting a try again.
“I used to switch-hit, but hitting left-handed always felt better,” said Roberts, who throws right-handed. “Since I'm ambidextrous, I thought I might as well see if I can hit right-handed. Turns out I could. But I gave up right-handed when I was 10 or 11 and kept hitting left-handed.
“On occasion, I'll go over and goof around hitting right-handed,” he added. “It’s not bad. But I roll over a lot because I haven't done it in a while.”
Left-handed hitters at the professional and college levels often are platooned due to analytics that show lefties struggle against left-handed pitching.
Roberts can relate to having troubles against lefties.
“I do worse (against left-handed pitching) than I do against right-handed pitching,” he said. “I try to keep my approach the same and let balls go deep and try to hit to the left-center gap.”
Ozark coach Justin Sundlie thinks Roberts fares just fine against lefties.
“He doesn’t seem to struggle against left-handed pitching or left-handed sliders,” Sundlie said. “He sees them just fine. There's not a whole lot he can't do.”
Roberts is starring as a sophomore on the ball diamond, just as he did on the hardwood this past winter. He was named to the All-COC First Team after averaging more than 14 points a game.
Roberts has elevated himself from hitting fifth in Ozark’s batting order to hitting third over the course of the season. Interestingly, this is the first time he’s ever hit out of the three-hole.
“I like it a lot. It gets me a lot of opportunities to get my team runs,” he said.
His own worst critic at times, even Roberts has been happy with how he’s hitting.
“I'm starting good, especially for my standards,” he said. “I think I could be hitting some more line drives, but overall I think I’m doing just fine. I've been barreling up a lot of balls, but happen to hit them right at people. But I'm staying within myself. I'm not worried at all.”
Sundlie has been thrilled with how Roberts has responded to varsity ball.
“He's a really fun player to coach and watch,” Sundlie said. “The tools he has are rare for that age, as are his approach and maturity level. The way he goes about the game is almost even more impressive to me. He's wise beyond his years. He approaches everything in a very mature way. For a sophomore, that's not very common. That in itself is going to allow him to keep improving.”
Roberts won’t slow down come summer. He’ll play travel ball for a Nationals Scout team with a schedule that will take him across the country.
“He loves to play,” Sundlie said. “The best thing about the kid is, as talented as he is, and we all know he's going to do great things, he's so humble. He shows up and works hard with a great attitude every day. His teammates love him, which says so much about him.”
Next season, Roberts will split time between pitching and either third base or shortstop.
“I love playing for coach Sundlie,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where he puts me.”