Harris reaches the 200 hit mark for Lancers

Consistency is something that goes hand in hand with Hayden Harris. Over the course of four years playing baseball at Longwood, he’s started all but one game. He’s also been a consistent hitter, to the point of reaching a milestone. Back on Tuesday, April 16, Harris collected the 200th hit of his college career. 

It was a high mark for the Mechanicsville native, who’s since added 10 more hits to the resume. And done in pretty impressive fashion, as he went 5-for-5 on the night. It’s part of what’s been a solid senior campaign for the second baseman, who’s batting .348 on the year, with 26 RBIs and an impressive .985 fielding percentage. Translated, that means he’s only recorded two errors all season while fielding his position. 

“Happy for Hayden,” Longwood Head Coach Chad Oxendine said. “He is a guy who embodies Longwood baseball and it’s a great achievement for him.” 

In the major leagues, you have certain marks that register your achievements as a hitter. Two thousand hits up there gets you recognized. Three thousand hits gets you in the conversation for the Hall of Fame. In college baseball, the seasons are much shorter and you usually only have four or five of them. So reaching 200 is an impressive achievement. 

IN THE BLOOD 

Baseball became an obsession for Hayden Harris growing up. One of five kids, Hayden wasn’t the only ballplayer. Both of his older brothers played the sport as well. And beginning at the age of two, Hayden would be at the field with his parents, watching them play. 

“Growing up and watching them, I fell in love with the game,” Hayden said. “It gradually almost became an obsession. I worked at it every day, just trying to get better.” 

His father Mark was Hayden’s first hitting coach and guided him through the process, helping him develop his swing and learn how to make contact. And that led up to high school, where he came to a realization, two years in. 

“My sophomore year in high school, I decided I was going to go all in,” Hayden said. “I was going to do everything I needed to get to the next level.” 

And that’s exactly what happened. At first, Hayden said, he struggled a bit with confidence. But then, he started going to summer baseball camps and got interest from different colleges. 

“That started to boost my confidence,” Hayden said. 

And he applied that on the field. Over the next three years, Hayden earned three letters in baseball at Atlee High. His senior season, he collected First Team All-Region honors, hitting .350 with 33 RBIs and three home runs. By this point, hitting had become his favorite part of the game. 

“Being at the plate, knowing it’s you against the guy on the mound, that’s a great feeling,” Hayden said. “I love the competitive aspect of the game. Every pitch means something.” 

‘I FELL IN LOVE WITH FARMVILLE’ 

Accepting the offer to come play at Longwood, Hayden said the school and town helped him from the time he arrived. 

“I love the small town feel,” Hayden said. “I fell in love with Farmville and Longwood from the moment I stepped foot on campus. Everybody kinda knows you here, which is awesome. And the people, the place, they’ve all made me who I am now. I came into college still trying to figure myself out and I think coming here helped.” 

The same goes for his baseball career, as he credits Coach Oxendine with sticking with him, giving him the chance to battle through slumps as they come. 

“He’s kept me in the lineup, even when things went bad,” Hayden said. “Even getting to that 200 hit mark is more about the trust he had in me to stay in the lineup and not getting away from putting me in there.” 

Now, as he heads closer to the end of his senior season and college life in general, Hayden said he’s still working on what comes next. If there’s an opportunity to continue playing baseball, he’ll definitely take it. 

“But if the journey ends, baseball wise, I’m a business management major, so I would probably go into something like that, a sales position,” Hayden said. “I’m still looking around. I haven’t figured it out quite yet.” 

ONE LAST RUN 

But before any of that comes in the picture, he’s got the last few games of a regular season and then a Big South tournament to focus on. As for the 200 hit mark, to be honest, Hayden said he doesn’t think it has quite set in yet. 

“It’s one of those things I haven’t really thought about a whole lot,” he said. “We’ve still got a season to finish and a tournament to win. The best time to get hot is right now and we can do it. We can make a run, make the tournament and win that thing.”