Thursday, March 19, 2009 | 5 p.m.
Chris Sambol has become accustomed to hitting pitches he does not like.
During his baseball career at Southeast Career and Technical Academy, opponents have tried to limit his power at the plate by walking him or offering up a steady diet of breaking balls.
"They're definitely pitching around me," Sambol said. "It is tough to hit when you don't get anything to hit. That's forced me to hit breaking balls."
Sambol, a senior, knows he is a marked man. He is the best hitter on the team, and opponents would prefer to put him on first base with a walk rather than give him a chance to hit.
With his reputation as a slugger, Sambol sees just a few good pitches a game.
"He takes advantage of the pitchers' mistakes," Tech coach Bill Stuber said. "He has power to all fields."
As a well-rounded hitter, Sambol is difficult for opponents to avoid. He can drive the fastball, take the breaking ball to the opposite field and drill the hanging curve ball deep into the outfield grass.
"Wherever it's pitched, you gotta take it," Sambol said. "And once they make a mistake, I'm all over it."
Even with the all the efforts to limit Sambol's production, he has thrived. Sambol, who plays third and first base, stands out on a team that won just three games last season, and already has plans to take his game to the college level.
After hitting .414, with two home runs and 19 RBI in his junior year, Sambol signed to play baseball at the College of Southern Nevada.
"He's one of the bigger, stronger kids in town," CSN coach Tim Chambers said. "We think he's going to hit for some power."
Chambers plans to use Sambol mostly at third base next season because he has a strong arm.
The coaches at CSN first noticed Sambol at a baseball camp a few years ago. Sambol had plenty of raw talent and a strong desire to learn. After the camp, Sambol continued to work with the coaches to improve his swing.
"I just noticed he was a big, strong kid, and he was raw with some good bat speed," Chambers said.
CSN is a traditional junior college power, which routinely sends players to Division I colleges or the minor leagues. In 2008, five CSN players were selected in the draft, with the highest getting picked in the fourth round.
"I love their coaching," Sambol said. "They develop their players and their players go on to bigger things."
For the coaches at Tech, Sambol's work ethic separates him as an elite player.
"He will do all the hard work, the extra work it takes to achieve the goals he sets," Tuber said. "He is a great teammate, a great leader."
At Tech, winning is not the tradition. The Roadrunners have struggled to compete in the Southeast Division of the Sunrise Region, one of the most competitive baseball divisions in Nevada.
Tech, however, has started to improve. The Roadrunners won their first league game last season, and has already matched its win three-game total from last year.
Stuber points to Sambol's leadership and ability to carry the team as a key reason for the Roadrunners early success.
"The team definitely feeds off his fire, as much as I do," Stuber said. "I expect Chris to go up there and hit the cover off the ball every time he steps to the plate. He does too."
Garrett Downing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 948-7803