May 16, 2006
by Kyle McRae
Chris Lewis makes no bones about the responsibilities he feels as a senior on the 2006 Stanford Baseball team.
"I feel like it's my responsibility to lead this group of guys," said Lewis. "Along with the other seniors, we've earned our right to do that, and it feels good."
Lewis has always felt that responsibility this season, but he may not have felt as good as he does now early on in the 2006 season when the senior infielder got off to a 4-for-32 start at the plate and was still struggling with a .186 batting average at the end of March. He also had a tough time defensively, making eight errors in the team's first 15 games to force his temporary move across the diamond to third base.
"Early in the season, I wasn't pulling my weight," admitted Lewis. "I wasn't hitting well, and I made some defensive lapses."
But a talk with head coach Mark Marquess towards the end of his struggles sparked him.
"He told me that the success of the team was based on my success, and I took that to heart," remembered Lewis. "I basically just decided that I needed to play better, compete better and lead this team better. I took it personally to do some things on my own and try to take some things into my own hands."
He also said the talk with Marquess was a two-way conversation and that he expressed his need to be able to lead the club.
"He understood and respected that," recalled Lewis. "He gave me that leeway, and I think it's paid off."
It certainly seems that way.
Lewis has been on fire in April and May with a .354 batting average that leads the team's regulars during that period to go with 11 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 22 RBI. He even has his job back at second base and has turned in some outstanding defensive work, making just three errors in the club's 27 contests in April and May.
Despite his turnaround, Stanford still seemed doomed to its first campaign without a trip to the postseason since 1993 less than three weeks ago after finishing the first half of league play with a 3-9 record and a last-place showing. But, three consecutive Pac-10 series wins, seven victories in its first nine games of the second half of conference action and a current red-hot six game win streak have the Cardinal back in position to return to the postseason.
Lewis claims he and fellow senior position players John Hester and Chris Minaker had some talks about the subject a few weeks ago.
"We knew it would have to be the hard way, but that it was doable," said Lewis. "The three of us got together and just said that it would be a shame to go out like that with all the success we've had here. We all wanted to keep going, and we didn't want to end on a low note."
"We're going to go down to UCLA and make a run at this thing," he continued when discussing the team's final Pac-10 series this Friday-Sunday that could determine the club's postseason fate.
Stanford needs to take two-of-three over the Bruins to equal the 12-12 conference mark the club had last season when the Cardinal made its 12th straight postseason appearance. Stanford also has series victories over No. 2 Cal State Fullerton and No. 3 Texas on its 2006 resume, sweeping the Titans to open the season and taking two-of-three from the defending champion Longhorns in late February.
"I'm proud to say we still have a chance," said an excited Lewis. "I'm in it for my teammates. I don't want them to go out like that. I want them to have the same experience I've had and see what it's like to be in the postseason."
He takes that responsibility personally.
"It's very important to give this year's freshmen a taste of the postseason because it's something we do here," he continued. "We take pride in getting to the postseason every year and having a chance to win the national championship. We owe it to them to get them to the postseason. It's our job to do that, but it's also their job to keep it going when we pass the torch."
Lewis is hoping that won't be until late June when the nation's top eight teams converge on Omaha.