P-T grad Common powering offense for Pitt-Greensburg baseball
With an emotionally charged flip of his bat, Chris Common and his teammates walked off with an extra-inning win over Penn State Behrend earlier this month.
It might have been the hit that ignited Common’s offensive tear.
Common, a Penn-Trafford graduate, has hit homers and collected hardware while helping propel UPG to another run at the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference playoffs.
UPG has a Common man. His numbers, however, have been anyting but.
The big-swinging lefty is among the AMCC’s top all-around hitters. Through mid-week, he ranked fifth in batting average (.400), third in RBIs (37) and was tied for second in his favorite category: home runs, with eight.
But he added two more in a doubleheader sweep of Hilbert — including a grand slam — to break the program’s single-season mark with 10 homers.
“Chris has something that you can’t teach: raw power,” UPG coach Scott Adams said. “His ability to hit any mistake a pitcher makes over the fence makes him a constant threat at the plate.”
Fans have remarked Common’s home runs are some of the farthest hit at Bobcat Park.
“Well, our fence in center is 400 feet, and I have hit some over that,” said Common, a left fielder. “But who knows what to believe? I like to think of myself as a gap hitter. I like to hit home runs, yes, but I like to drive in baserunners however I can.”
During a recent six-game stretch, Common hit .579 with three home runs, six runs scored and 15 RBIs. The run earned him AMCC Player of the Week honors and made him a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association NCAA Division III Honorable Mention for Batter of the Week.
He hit for the cycle and drove in seven runs in the first game of a doubleheader at Chatham, missing the school record for RBIs in a game by one.
“He isn’t your prototypical power hitter who always tries to pull the ball over the fence,” Adams said. “He has the ability to drive the ball to all fields, which allows him to hit for a high average along with his usual power numbers. His combination of power and average makes him a very hard player to get out.”
Last season, Common hit .357 with five homers and 28 RBIs, and 16 of his 45 hits went for extra bases. He was named AMCC Newcomer of the Year.
Common sees this season as an extension of last season.
“I’m not that surprised because I expected to do well,” Common said. “Actually, I’d like to do a little better. Less strikeouts would be nice.”
In the 6-5 win over Behrend, which capped the first sweep of the Lions since 2004, Common and sophomore teammate Tyler Holland hit back-to-back homers in the ninth to fuel the emotional finish. Holland has eight homers.
“We’re the kind of team that can surprise some people,” Common said. “Our team is very overlooked. We’re pretty solid, and I think we can make some noise in the playoffs.”
UPG (18-12, 10-6) was in third place in the AMCC — behind La Roche and Behrend — heading into the weekend.
The top six out of nine teams make the playoffs.
UPG started the season in Florida and got spoiled with nice weather.
When they returned to Greensburg, they didn’t get outside for four weeks as pesky rain turned their field into milktoast.
But then the sun came out, and so did the offense.
“It warmed up,” Common said. “It got nice, and we got outside. We really started to get into a groove.”
Common has hit in the No. 3 and 5 spot in the lineup.
While he doesn’t flaunt it, he quietly plays with a chip on his shoulder.
He received only one offer out of high school despite turning heads in Johnstown’s summer AAABA league, where he won the batting title last summer.
“I think about it sometimes,” Common said. “Maybe I was a little overlooked. But I don’t worry too much about that. I like it here. I let the game come to me. I play every game like it’s my last.”
Common said his power surge is a credit to offseason training with FSQ Sports Training in Trafford, the same outfit that works with Washington Redskins receiver and Jeannette grad Terrelle Pryor and dozens of local athletes.
“Working out with them has been a big help,” Common said. “We’ve done some explosive workouts and batting practice. I think it has made me bigger and stronger on the field.”
Said Adams: “His drive to constantly get better is what makes him such a good player.”