Bradley Zimmer isn’t out to blaze any new trails, just to find some consistency.
It’s been a challenge for the University of San Francisco junior. He’s the highest profile player on a team battling to find its way in the West Coast Conference.
A 2013 WCC all-star, Zimmer is one of the top draft-eligible juniors in the country, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound center fielder who can hit and run. He turned a sure single into a standup triple in a recent game with Portland. That led to a big ninth inning as the Dons (20-22, 8-13) salvaged a win over the Pilots.
Batting lead off, Zimmer went 3-for-4 in that victory, the second half of a doubleheader. Hitting third in the first game, he was 1-for-4.
“I’ve been up and down,” said Zimmer, hitting .374 with seven homers, five triples, 27 RBIs and 38 runs scored. “I think it’s one of those things where I kind of hit a rough patch, I wasn’t seeing the ball well.”
“I’ve been pitched backwards,” he said. “I’ve definitely adjusted to that and done a good job of staying back on that pitch and driving it.”
In an effort to get him better pitches, the USF staff has moved him about in the lineup, an unusual tactic but one that paid dividends against Portland.
“It’s fun to move him from leadoff to three-hole, four-hole, whatever we need him to do,” USF coach Nino Giarratano said. “He’s a great player, we just had a hard time putting him in the right spot most of the year so he could get pitches to hit. It’s been a learning experience for him.”
“I’ve gotten used to it,” Zimmer said of hitting leadoff. “It was a little bit of an odd spot for me at first, just because I wasn’t really used to it. I was hitting in the middle of the lineup essentially my whole career, but I like it, I feel comfortable there. Coach likes me there, so I want to do whatever is best for the team.”
The move against Portland wasn’t just to shake up the lineup, but a deliberate effort to get the Dons’ best player some additional chances to impact the game from the get-go.
“I just wanted him to see more at-bats,” Giarratano said. “”I felt like their pitching would kind of get wore down and if he could get to them early – and he did. He did it with his bat, he did it with his legs, he did it with his glove.
“He’s a great player on a team that’s just trying to do the best it can.”
Zimmer isn’t the first of his family to suit up for the Dons. He played his freshman year with his brother, Kyle.
Kyle Zimmer pitched for the Dons and was a first-round selection of the Kansas City Royals in the 2012 First-year player draft. That has helped prepare Bradley for the near future as well.
“Seeing him go through the process was obviously pretty exciting,” Bradley Zimmer said. “But I think it’s one of those things where I’ve prepared myself and I just kind of go out and execute my role every day and the rest will take care of itself.”