UNCG Player Leading Turks
By Mark Selig
Daily News Record
Harrisonburg – Long a terror for public-address announcers, Harrisonburg Turks outfielder Eric Kalbfleisch is starting to become one for opposing pitchers, as well.
Even if people can’t pronounce his name.
“Kalbfleisch” (pronounced Kelb-Flysh) might not roll off the tongue now — but maybe it will soon. Through six Valley Baseball League games, the man with the very Germanic, 11-letter last name is batting a team-best .500, continuing his hot hitting from this spring at North Carolina-Greensboro, where he batted .310 as a sophomore. “Right now, I’m just seeing the ball pretty well,” Kalbfleisch said. “Coming off of school season, I ended school season hitting pretty well, and I guess it just carried on.”
A 6-foot-3, 180-pounder from Pilot Mountain, N.C., Kalbfleisch arrived at UNCG as a two-way player, but he gave up pitching this season because of chronic inflammation in his left throwing arm.
As a freshman, he posted a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings pitched and hit .242, though in just 33 at-bats. He thrived this past season as an everyday outfielder for UNCG’s first-year coach, Link Jarrett. Jarrett, a former hitting coach at Auburn, played for Wease and the Turks years ago and has sent numerous players to Harrisonburg for summer baseball.
Kalbfleisch began this season near the bottom of the Turks’ batting order and is now hitting fifth for Wease, who said Monday that the outfielder is “a good-looking player” who “has a chance to go on” and play professionally.
While Kalbfleisch can’t put a finger on exactly why he’s started the season so hot, one reason, oddly enough, might be that the Valley League uses wooden bats. It’s easier to hit with the composite bats employed in college, but Kalbfleisch, realizing the traits of the wood, consciously reduces his swing, merely looking for contact.
“I kind of like wood better,” Kalbfleisch said. “Knowing it’s not gonna go as far, just put the ball in play rather than swinging for the gaps for extra-base hits.”
Kalbfleisch said he hit roughly .400 last summer for the Kernersville (N.C.) Bulldogs of the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League.
While 16 of his 65 hits at UNCG this spring were for extra bases, 11 of his 12 hits for Harrisonburg have been singles (the 12th was a triple). He’s struck out only once in 26 plate appearances.
That might be the profile of a mere contact hitter, but Kalbfleisch is doing plenty of damage with his singles. He’s knocked in a team-high seven runs and has also scored a team-high seven runs. That amounts to 14 of the team’s 34 runs. If the Turks (3-3) are on a rally, there’s a good chance Kalbfleisch has a part in it.
For the second night in a row, Harrisonburg’s game at Waynesboro was rained out Monday. The Turks, in fact, have not played since last Wednesday, because of stormy, wet weather.
Kalbfleisch, a kinesiology major who considers himself a big “workout guy,” has passed the time with trips to the gym and the movie theater with teammates. He hasn’t taken many swings though, so he hopes his hot hand hasn’t washed away and rusted over.
“We took BP [Sunday], but before that I haven’t swung a bat in a few days,” he said. “Makes you a little nervous.”
Now, Kalbfleisch knows how the PA announcers and pitchers feel.