NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the calendar inches closer to May, Vanderbilt’s offense remains one of the most productive in the SEC.
The Dores will be even more dangerous if Julian Infante continues to find his groove.
Infante, a senior first baseman, has shaken off a sluggish 2018 season and is riding a wave of momentum in SEC play this spring. Entering this weekend’s three-game series with Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the old Infante has seemingly returned; he has a hit in 13 of his last 19 games and six home runs in his last 13.
A hot bat from Infante could be an asset for the Commodores in the coming weeks. But the senior stiff-arms the notion that he has to “bounce back” from anything.
“I felt good last year — I didn’t know I had a bad year last year,” the Miami native said with a smile. “I guess it’s just taking those same things and being the best teammate I can be for the rest of the guys.”
Entering his junior season in 2018, Infante garnered a major spotlight as a power hitter in the SEC. He earned Preseason All-America recognition and was a threat to depart as a high pick in Major League Baseball’s draft at season’s end. Instead, the slugger hit a slump in the Commodores’ lineup. Infante batted just .193 with two home runs and 18 RBIs, sitting outside the lineup for 12 games.
As a sophomore in 2017, Infante had led Vanderbilt’s roster with 66 RBIs and batted .315 with 11 home runs. He had also tied for the team lead with 25 multi-hit games. But as Infante hit a wall as a junior, Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said he felt emotional watching his star experience a dip in production.
“To watch someone of his nature struggle from a baseball standpoint and not get the outcomes you want, knowing that you put a lot of time an energy into it, it can be deflating,” Corbin said. “It can be deflating for the people who really like him. He’s a pleaser. He wants to please his teammates and he serves them in other areas, besides his abilities on the field. People hurt for him. The reason they hurt for him is he gives so much energy to everyone else. ”
Infante ultimately returned to Vanderbilt in 2019 as part of a five-member senior class, the program’s largest since 2008. He missed 10 games early in the season following an injury in the team’s opener against Virginia. But Infante has worked to gradually regain his groove as one of the best hitters in college baseball. He has now reached base in 21 of his last 25 games, and last Sunday against No. 12 Arkansas, Infante drilled a pair of homers for the first multi-home run game of his Vanderbilt career.
Infante has spent much of the 2019 focusing on the little things.
“It’s not really worrying about my own performance, it’s just understanding that work can take care of itself,” Infante said. “Outcomes on the field just come with consistency and a good mindset. The rest of the stuff will work out.”
A strong finish to SEC play and, perhaps, a return to Omaha are more pressing priorities to Infante, who heads with Vanderbilt to face Alabama this weekend in Tuscaloosa. The Dores’ lineup boasts a bevy of lethal bats, but Infante has evolved into a not-so-subtle x-factor for this team as a senior.
Corbin said that’s good news for Vanderbilt.
“Now he’s in a spot, I believe, where he’s confident,” Corbin said. “He’s gaining trust back in his game again, which is important. He feels good about himself. He always has. Your comment about Julian would always be, regardless of what he’s going through on the field, you would never know it off the field because he just contains himself in a way that, he models special behaviors … He’s the ultimate teammate.”
#22 Julian Infante
- 6′ 3″
- 215 lbs