By TONY EIERDAM
Perhaps the most prolific hitter in recent times at Mineral Wells High School, 2012 graduate Bryson Allen has kept his hitting prowess alive after a successful freshman season at Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kansas.
In four years of varsity baseball at MWHS, Allen was selected to the all-district team four times – including three first-team selections – and earned all-state honors his junior and senior year.
He hit .426 in his senior year and belted 17 home runs for his MWHS career.
Allen did not stop hitting at the plate despite the advancement to the next level.
In 2013 at Seward, Allen, in 230 at bats, hit .a team-high .391 and hit a team-high five home runs, drove in 40 runs (second best on team), and led the team with 10 triples, 15 doubles (tied for lead) and finished with an on base percentage of .452 while hitting from the second spot in the batting order.
He was also the only Seward player to play in all 63 games.
Allen, who played center field, was named Freshman of the Year in the Jayhawk Conference and was a first-team, all-conference selection.
He was also an all-region pick. His 10 triples were most in the region and were sixth nationally while ranking second in a single season in school history.
Allen stole 10 bases which led the Saints this season and scored 60 runs which also led Seward and ranked second in the region.
The Index caught up with Allen, who will live at home this summer while playing in a college wooden bat summer league in Dallas.
Q. Why did you choose to play at Seward?
A. I had a full scholarship offer, and the coach said he would take care of me and that I would start and play every game, which I did. Knowing that I would play right away sealed it. If I had gone to a four-year college, there would be sophomores, juniors and seniors ahead of me. Going to Seward allowed me to play right away and every day. They also send a lot of players to four-year colleges.
Q. What was the big difference between high school and college baseball?
A. College is more like a business, and everybody has to do their jobs. If you don’t, they will find someone who will. Another difference is pitching. The speed isn’t really that much different, but at this level the pitchers know how to pitch, and their curve balls drop off the table. They know how to pitch you and what to throw in a certain count.
Q. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make, if any, to play at the college level?
A. Batting practice is way different, and that was a big adjustment. In high school we just took swings, but here there is constant critiquing by coaches when you are in the batting cage. It’s a lot more technical and they are always breaking down our swings. College takes BP (batting practice) seriously. We do situational hitting in the cage, and we practice that in BP. In BP we practice hitting behind runners in hit-and-run situations and driving the ball to the outfield if the situation dictated to us has a runner on third base with less than two outs. We learn how and where to hit the ball.
Q. What was it like for you to be away from home for the first time?
A. It was a big step. It’s tough not seeing my mom and dad (Robin and Garry) and the rest of the family (sister Bethany and brother Braxton) very often, but at the same time it was fun gaining some independence. The first time I was supposed to do my laundry (Allen pauses to laugh) I had to call home and ask Mom how to get it started and what to do. It was nice to be on my own, but also tough because I missed my family.
Q. How were you able to mix academics with athletics with such a busy schedule?
A. We were on the road a lot, but at my school there were about 20 students in each class, and the teachers know who the athletes are and they work with you. The teachers at Seward are great. They are always willing to help. We have a lot of long bus trips for road games, and I always studied on the bus on the way to and back from road trips. We also had study hall very Tuesday night.
Q. What single moment occurred where you felt you belonged at this level?
A. It wasn’t really a single moment, but when guys on the team kept coming up to me and telling me that they knew I was about to hit the ball hard, that right there told me I belong. Being a freshman and the smallest guy on the team (5-7, 150 lbs), I guess they were surprised that I could hit and score runs. The guys made me feel like I was meant to be here.
Q. What spot did you bat in the order? How was it different from leading off as you did in high school?
A. Second. Sometimes third or cleanup, but mainly second. I really didn’t like hitting first in high school because I never got to see the pitcher before I hit. Now that I am batting second, I am able to watch the leadoff batter and see how they are pitching to him.
Q. What was the competition like at the college level?
A. The competition is actually very strong. We have faced a bunch of first and second-round pro draft picks, and we face pitchers who are pumping 95, 96 miles-per-hour on their pitches. Those pitches are whistling by you. The competition is high.
Q. What are your goals for next year?
A. I will play at Seward next year, and hopefully after next year I will go to a Division I school or maybe get drafted by a professional team. I have had a couple of D-I colleges talk to me, and one pro scout told me that he thought I had an outstanding season and that he will be watching me (in 2014). He said I have the potential to play pro ball.
Seward notes: Former Santo pitcher Brent Bezio appeared in four games for Seward in 2013. In 5-1/3 innings, Bezio (0-0) struck out four batters while walking five. He allowed seven earned runs for an 11.81 earned run average.