Since Griffin’s return to the starting lineup against Coastal Carolina on Mar. 28, the Tar Heels are 6-2 in games the Forsyth (N.C.) Country Day product has started.
The most recent victory came Tuesday, as Griffin went 2-for-5 at the plate with two RBI in the Heels’ 10-5 victory over the High Point Panthers at Boshamer Stadium. The win marks the fifth straight victory for Carolina following a sweep at the hands of Miami just over a week ago.
“I’ve just been feeling more comfortable at the plate and glad to be back playing again,” the soft-spoken Griffin said. “It feels great and I’m just glad the team is winning right now.”
Much of the team’s recent offensive success can be attributed to Griffin. He has at least two hits in each of the past four games, all UNC victories. In just ten games this season, Griffin is batting .417 with ten hits and four RBIs.
Recruited for his abilities both on the mound and in the field, the Cleveland Indians drafted Griffin in the 44th round of the MLB Draft. Instead, he opted for Chapel Hill, but the broken ankle put a damper on the beginning of his freshman season.
“It was good watching our team win and everything,” said Griffin. “It was worth it.”
Not reveling in his setback, Griffin has been a welcomed addition to the Tar Heels lineup, which has struggled to score runs at times this year. In the team’s six losses in ACC play, they have only managed to score 10 total runs. Comparatively, the Heels have churned out 19 runs in the five games Griffin has started against conference foes.
“He’s been making up for lost time I guess,” head coach Mike Fox said. “Maybe sitting helped him a little bit. Just to watch success, failure, talk to other guys.”
Against High Point, Griffin got off to a fast start, singling home North Carolina’s second run in the first inning.
Griffin would tack on another run for the Heels in his next at bat in the third inning, expanding the lead to 3-1 with his second RBI single of the game.
“You have to have freshman come in and play for you at this level,” Fox said. “It’s very rare that you just have everybody back where you’re not going to need one or two of these guys to come in.”
Griffin is part of a freshman class that has been called on to step up due to injuries and departures from last year’s College World Series squad.
In addition to Griffin, infielder Mike Zolk, outfielder Michael Russell and weekend starting pitcher Benton Moss have all performed admirably in their first season of college baseball.
“It’s almost like they don’t know where they are. It’s like we know this is a big game at Virginia, but maybe they don’t,” said Fox.
Griffin said he “doesn’t really think that much” when he takes the field for a game. Rather than feel any pressure he simply goes out there and plays the game he loves.
“That’s a good trait to have when you’re on the baseball field; not to think, just react,” Fox said. “That’s why you practice, so when you do start playing you just react.”
His inability to play during the first seven weeks of the season allowed Griffin extra time to practice and observe the game. In the three weeks since his return, the results of his time off are evident from his stellar play based on reacting rather than thinking.