JACKSONVILLE, FLa. – When a baseball player hits three home runs in a game, he’ll get a lot of attention.
Do it twice in the same week, and you can’t ignore it. Then mix in another two-homer game and you have the stuff of legend.
That’s the streak Kris Armstrong is on for Jacksonville University.
The grad transfer from Florida pounded out eight home runs in four games last week; one against Dartmouth and a three-game series against ASUN foe Central Arkansas. He added seven more hits during the week — three of them doubles while driving in 24 runs.
He was named as the ASUN player of the week and was recognized as National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball To say the least, Armstrong was dialed in.
“It’s sort of that out-of-body experience,” Armstrong said. “You know, you face once in a lifetime. I can see myself hitting the ball hard six times, but not hitting six balls out. That was unbelievable.”
To put his accomplishments into context, only nine players have hit 16 home runs in a season in JU history. Armstrong got halfway there in one week. His 24 runs batted in in the series would have ranked third on the team for the entire 2022 season.
In Armstrong’s best season with the Gators, he hit eight home runs and drove in 30 in 43 games.
How do you explain it?
“It’s been an unbelievable stretch of games. I’ll say that for the team itself,” said JU head coach Chris Hayes. “I mean, we’re 5-0 in our last five led by Kris and his accomplishments, as good a five-game stretch as you’ve seen, especially the last two, coming up big six times.”
Armstrong, whose father, Jack, pitched in the big leagues for seven years with the Reds, Marlins, Indians and Rangers, is also one of the few people on the planet to be able to pitch both right-handed and left-handed. It’s something he toyed with in the spring, but he has concentrated on hitting the ball during the season.
“My dad, he used to give private baseball lessons and he kept an extra baseball glove for kids who would forget it,” Armstrong said. “And it happened to be a lefty glove. And I started natural righty(-handed thrower), righty(-handed hitter). And I decided one day, you know, I’m going to try it out, see if it feels good. And, you know, a few years went by and I was able to find the zone a little bit here and there, velocity got up and it’s definitely in my back pocket.”
For the season, Armstrong is hitting .358 with 16 home runs and 46 RBIs. He’s been one of the biggest reasons the Dolphins are 18-8 and enjoying one of their best seasons in years.
Now the question: what comes next? After posting such gaudy numbers, will opposing teams still pitch to Armstrong? And if not, what can the Dolphins do?
“Make sure everybody else around him is swinging the bat,” Hayes said. “That’s the one thing. He’s had eight home runs in the last couple of games and he’s driven in 24. But that means there’s guys on base in front of him. And if we can continue to keep getting on base in front of them, and those guys behind him swinging the bat. They’ve got to pick their poison which way they’re going to go.”