A ?Paineless? transition from mound for Hornet slugger

Marshall Hampson

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For junior Trevor Paine, switching positions over the offseason due to an injury has helped Sacramento State Baseball win games. After two years of pitching, Paine now plays first base and is a designated hitter for the Hornets.

Paine missed most of the 2009 season with a stress fracture in his elbow, which occurred in September 2008. After healing from the injury, Paine began pitching again late last season.

Paine said he was also dealing with a recurring shoulder injury. Between the two injuries, Paine said the doctor told him he would need surgery in order to pitch again. Paine decided against surgery and convinced head coach John Smith to move him to infield so he could be back in the lineup.

“I’ve always loved hitting,” Paine said. “I didn’t want the surgery. I always saw myself as a hitter, not a pitcher that can hit. So I went up to coach and told him that I was really serious about it.”

Paine is currently leading the team with a .360 batting average and a .590 slugging percentage. He also has a team-leading five home runs and a perfect fielding percentage.

Paine said he attributes his good start to being aggressive at the plate.

“I’ve taught myself to put your best swing on the ball don’t over think anything,” he said. “A lot of hitters start to overthink things when they get to the plate.”

Paine’s hitting ability goes back as far back as his high school days at Jesuit High School. He had a .412 batting average and racked up 42 RBI’s throughout his junior and senior years.

When he made the transition this season, Paine started working a lot more at practice with assistant coach Reggie Christiansen. Christiansen said he even had his doubts about Paine hitting.

“At the beginning, I wasn’t too certain about it,” Christiansen said. “He hasn’t picked up a bat in almost two years. But he’s been a pleasant surprise to us. Without him in the lineup, we wouldn’t be very good offensively right now.”

Paine said he has learned a lot about his swing from training with Christiansen during practices.

“He’s a really good hitting coach. He really knows what he’s talking about,” Paine said. “We’ve been working on a lot of a mechanical things. He’s changing my stance up and allowing me to get better swings off. He’s helped make this transition. I owe him a lot.”

When Paine started at Sac State, he was a go-to pitcher his freshman year. In 21 games, he had a season-best 4.50 ERA and earned his first victory on March 11, 2007, against University of the Pacific.

Now that Paine is in the lineup every game, Christiansen said he and Paine worked closely at getting him used to college hitting.

“He’s always been a good hitter since his high school days,” Christiansen said. “But being a good hitter in high school doesn’t always translate into being a good college hitter. We’ve been working on live pitching, like the type of pitching he’ll be seeing at our level.”

Paine will be establishing himself at first base for a few games in place of Josh Powers. Paine said that playing catcher in early in his baseball career made the move to infield smoother.

“First base is one of the easier transitions to make,” Paine said. “You pretty much stretch and catch the ball. I was used to catching 90-mph fastballs coming at my face, so catching groundballs was an easier transition.”

Powers has the second-highest batting average, after Paine with .301. Powers has started at first base for most of the season and said he’ll be playing catcher for the Hornets because of injuries as Paine gets a shot at infield.

“He’s taking it head on,” Powers said. “He’s always giving a good effort everyday at practice. He’s getting a lot more opportunities.”

For a player who is leading the Hornets in several categories this year, Powers said he enjoys being on the field with Paine.

“He’s always having fun at practice and at the games,” Powers said. “We have a good relationship just talking about our position and how we hit that day. He’s just a fun guy.”

With a good first half of the season, Paine has set some team and individual goals to continue his success for the rest of the season.

“For a team goal, I want to make it in to the WAC Tournament and win it,” Paine said. “I know that we’re more than capable of doing it. But for myself, I want to go out there everyday and help our team win. I’m not really concerned about the stat sheet.”

Marshall Hampson can be reached at mhampson@statehornet.com