Jonathan Griffin embraces role as Knights' cleanup batter
Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 17:05
Jonathan Griffin came into his own as a hitter at the end of last season.
The UCF first baseman became the Knights' power source, hitting six of his 13 home runs in the last 10 games of the 2010 season.
He has carried over the momentum into 2011, leading Conference USA with 17 homers and a .638 slugging percentage. He became the only Knight to make the All-C-USA first team.
"I like [being UCF's power hitter]," said Griffin, who raised his batting average from .299 last season to .336 this season. "That's always been my job – hit in the middle of the lineup and bring in RBIs to win the ball game, so I like having that in my hands."
In two seasons as a Knight, the senior has 30 total home runs. Griffin is tied for third in single-season UCF history with 17 home runs.
Associate head coach Cliff Godwin said that despite having a lot of power when he arrived at UCF, Griffin had flaws in his swing mechanics.
Griffin dominated the junior-college level, hitting 37 home runs in two seasons at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. But, he hit just two homers in his first 19 games for the Knights.
"When he got here, he struck out a lot," Godwin said. "He still showed flashes of big-time power, but he was really inconsistent. We worked on some things, and to Griff's credit, he worked his butt off the two years he's been here."
Godwin helped Griffin changed his batting stance to give him more balance, and he also worked with him mentally to educate the power-hitter on what kind of pitches he should watch for and what kind of pitches he handles better.
"I'm focusing more on just seeing the ball and not trying to do too much," Griffin said. "I've been working with Coach Godwin a lot in the offseason and during the season and that's what our main focus was, just seeing the ball and not trying to do too much."
Most of Griffin's home runs have been solo shots, and Godwin thinks that might be because of how pitchers pitch to him.
"When guys are on base and they see Jonathan Griffin up, any of our guys, but especially him, they're like, ‘we really have to pitch this guy tough because we'll make a mistake and it's going to be a three-run homer or a grand slam,'" Godwin said. "Sometimes they pitch around him and, even though they might not walk him, they might be pitching out of the strike zone and just not giving him the pitch to hit. With nobody on, they're probably throwing balls more for the plate and that gives him an opportunity to get home runs."
Griffin had his first multi-homer game on Senior Day, the series finale against Marshall.
After Griffin led off the sixth inning with a homer, the Knights went deep four times in the seventh. Darnell Sweeney and Ronnie Richardson each hit their first of the season back-to-back and Beau Taylor followed up with the third straight home run. Two batters later, Griffin hit his second of the game.
"We were pretty excited for Sweeney to get his first home run so it was pretty exciting," Griffin said. "I don't even know if many people were watching Ronnie and then Ronnie hit his [first home run], so that was the big talk of the dugout, and then of course Beau comes up and hits another one, so it just felt unstoppable."
After sweeping UAB two weeks ago and winning the Marshall series last weekend, UCF is seeded fourth in the conference tournament and has a shot at the C-USA championship.
Godwin said that the Knights are confident and Griffin agrees.
"We're loose, but we're also determined," Griffin said. "We're determined to go up there and compete for the Conference USA championship."