Sam Novitske grew up as a typical three-sport athlete.
He dropped football after eighth grade and stopped playing basketball midway through his prep career despite earning all-conference honors as a sophomore at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, Calif. Novitske stuck with baseball and batted .369 as a junior and .351 as a senior to emerge as one of the top high school infielders in the state before signing with Oregon.
“I think playing multiple sports when you are younger and then finding your focus in high school is beneficial,” Novitske said. “There were definitely a lot of things in basketball that helped me in baseball, so that worked out for me. Baseball was my first love and I was able to stick with that one.”
Novitske has been the leadoff hitter since he arrived on campus for the Ducks (22-16, 7-8), who visit California (21-14, 8-7) for a three-game series beginning on Friday. The freshman third baseman ranks third on the team with a .299 batting average and .413 on-base percentage.
“Sam has been very consistent and even when he’s not getting on base, he makes a pitcher work,” Oregon coach George Horton said. “He grinds through at-bats and does what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do. He makes a pitcher throw a lot of pitches and gets on base a lot.”
Novitske hit at the top of the order in high school and has been there for every game of his college career. He credited Oregon’s video staff with getting him a scouting report on each pitcher.
“The leadoff spot is where you can either be aggressive and jump on pitches early or work the count and let the rest of the lineup see pitches,” Novitske said. “I’ve been pretty comfortable doing that. … I usually have a good idea going in what a pitcher has. If he lacks a little command, you know you can be more patient and if he likes to fill up the zone, you can jump on his pitches.”
Novitske has two four-hit performances in Oregon’s last six games while going 14-for-32 during that stretch.
“My job is to get on base any way I can and ultimately score runs,” he said. “I am trying to stick to my approach and use the middle of the field. Take good at-bats and no matter what, stay positive.”
That theory has been put to the test after Oregon was swept at home last weekend by second-ranked Stanford.
“We have a big series coming up against Cal so we need to learn from our mistakes,” Novitske said. “At the same time, we have to be able to move forward. I think we have a good mindset going into this series and hopefully we get some wins.”