Gates floods field with hits in June

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, June 9, 2018
Arkansas first baseman Jared Gates hits a home run during an NCAA Tournament game against Southern Miss on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas first baseman Jared Gates hits a home run during an NCAA Tournament game against Southern Miss on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks have a new nickname for Jared Gates.

"Mr. June," right fielder Eric Cole said. "He's earned it."

ADVERTISEMENT

More headlines

Jared Gates at a glance

COLLEGE Arkansas

POSITIONS First base, third base

BATS/THROWS Left/Right

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-0/190 pounds

HIGH SCHOOL Wichita (Kan.) Northwest

JUNIOR COLLEGE Iowa Western

NOTEWORTHY Batting .372 (16 of 43) in SEC Tournament and NCAA regional games the past two seasons. … This season is batting .248 with 5 home runs and 21 RBI. … Has started past 6 games at 1B after starting 23 of 54 games — including 19 at 1B and 4 at 3B — in the regular season. … As a junior started 35 games at 3B and batted .246 with 6 home runs and 14 RBI. … Son of Steve and Tammy Gates.

Gates, the Razorbacks' senior first baseman from Wichita, Kan., went 5 for 11 in last weekend's NCAA Fayetteville Regional -- which opened June 1 -- and had 2 RBI and scored 5 runs. Among his hits were a home run and double. He also reached base on a walk and by being hit by a pitch.

The June boom for Gates helped the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville sweep Oral Roberts University, Southern Mississippi and Dallas Baptist to advance to this weekend's super regional against South Carolina.

"It just feels good to be able to produce and help us win, especially this time of the year, because if you lose two games your season's over," Gates said. "This group of guys, I'm not ready to be done playing with them. I'm excited to try to keep it going."

Gates also had a big June last season when he went 4 for 12 in a regional with 2 home runs -- including a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth that lifted Arkansas to a 11-10 victory over Missouri State.

"I don't know how to explain it," Gates said. "I like the big stage, I guess."

Gates, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, is batting .391 (9 for 23) in June in his two seasons with the Razorbacks, and he has hit 3 of his 11 career home runs. He's batting .230 (46 for 200) in the months prior to June.

The improved hitting for Gates in the postseason includes the SEC Tournament, where the past two seasons he's a combined 8 for 21.

In SEC Tournament and regional games, Gates is batting .372 (16 of 43). In all other games, he's batting .217 (39 for 180).

"I've been swinging at better pitches, and I've been getting some good pitches to hit and I haven't been missing them," he said. "I'm just in rhythm right now."

Arkansas catcher Grant Koch said Gates' knack for hitting in the postseason is hard to explain.

"I don't know if it's something you can put a finger on, but that guy really shows up in the postseason," Koch said. "He always plays hard, even though maybe it hasn't always shown up in the stats.

"But he's a guy we want up at the plate -- especially in the postseason. He's a guy that really loves the moment, and what he's doing has been really, really cool to see because he deserves it more than anybody."

The day before Arkansas opened the SEC Tournament, Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn had a message for Gates, who had started just 23 of the team's 54 regular-season games.

Van Horn called Gates over before the players stretched at practice and told him he would be starting at first base the rest of the season.

" 'You're starting to swing it better, and we need you,' " Van Horn said he told Gates. " 'When you get to the park, you don't have to look and see if your name is in the lineup.'

"I think he really appreciated it, and he's kind of taken off a little bit."

Gates said Van Horn's assurance helped him relax.

"It's kind of tough coming to the field every day not knowing whether you're going to play," he said. "When Coach Van Horn told me straight up, 'You're my guy,' that gave me some extra confidence right there. I started playing like myself again."

Gates, who since the SEC Tournament has raised his batting average from .198 to .248, was popular with his teammates before his hot streak.

"First of all, Gates is just the best human being you could ask for to have on your team," second baseman Carson Shaddy said. "He's a guy that always celebrates you before he celebrates himself.

"A lot of people learn from him. I've learned a lot from him. He's selfless. For him to come on after his kind of tough season, it's been huge. That's why we're all so happy for Gates and every success that he has."

Gates has made several good defensive plays at first base since he became the full-time starter.

"He's been huge for us locking down first base after it had been a question mark all year," Cole said. "His offense and defense are a big part of why we're making this run right now.

"Everything's coming together at the right time for him."

Sports on 06/09/2018

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.