Back On Track
April 4, 2001
By Jay Reddick
Corey Slavik has a 20-game hitting streak to his credit this season, but he prefers the one-game streak he began after that.
Sure, the senior third baseman's longer streak was fun to watch, and his one hit a game helped the Deacons get off to a 16-4 start, but he says he was lucky to get through unscathed.
"In the first 10 games, I was swinging more conservatively than I need to be," Slavik said. "I was getting behind in the count ? I probably had 0-2 counts on half my at-bats early on. I would fight my way out of them, but I wasn't in attack mode like I like to be in."
Two weeks of scrapping and three weeks of comfortable hitting have led to a .360 average for Slavik through March 22, third on the Deacons. He ended his season-opening tear with a hitless performance at North Carolina on March 18 but returned to the hit column three days later at East Carolina.
"I was 0-for-5 at Carolina, but I felt better about my swing than I have," Slavik said. "Now, I've got a one-game streak, and even if I don't keep that going, I'll keep hitting well."
Another reason Slavik is glad the long streak is over is that it removed some of the pressure he put on himself.
"You try not to let a streak like that control you, but it's in the back of your mind over the course of a game," Slavik said. "If you're 0-for-3 or 0-for-4, you know it. I've never had one that long, and I didn't like it. I thought too much."
It's been a while since Slavik had an ordinary start to a season. Last year, he hit .611 during a 15-game hitting streak in February and March, and as a sophomore in 1999, he hit just .151 over the first 15 games of the year. He says that sophomore slump taught him some lessons.
"I didn't work as hard as I needed to in the offseason," Slavik said. "I let myself and my teammates down. It was awful. I understand what it takes now, and I haven't let it happen again."
Slavik has stayed hot even as the weather has gone through its typical North Carolina swings. The team has held several practices indoors thanks to the cold rain and sleet that hit the Triad in March and played at East Carolina in that weather. What's a Florida boy like Slavik to do?
"Florida winters aren't like this at all, but it's worse for me, because I played basketball in high school and didn't come outside until mid-March, when it's 80 degrees already," Slavik said. "It makes a difference, but then you know what the weather will be like in two months and you just get plenty of work done."
Slavik hopes his bat stays warm, but even more than that, he hopes the team can remain on the high it's been experiencing. He's never been on a team that didn't reach the NCAA tournament, but he's also never been to Omaha.
"That's another thing I learned when I was a sophomore," Slavik said. "We were two wins from Omaha (and the College World Series). That hurt a lot, and I don't want to hurt like that again."
The 2001 Deacons have inserted several freshmen in key roles, joining the experienced ballplayers who know what postseason play is like. Slavik sees it as an excellent mix.
"We've got a great team," Slavik said. "The seniors have stepped up and shown the leadership that we need to, and the younger players have really given us a lift. There have been plenty of guys in the past who have been good leaders, and it's time for us to carry that banner."
One key to how far this team can go, Slavik believes, is togetherness.
"We've played some teams that have amazing talent but no chemistry at all," Slavik said. "You can be like that in the pros, but in college, it's different. This school has been amazing for that. On this team, there are no outcasts, no bad apples, and I enjoy it so much."
Slavik can be excused if he mentions pro ball now and again. As a senior, it's almost time for him to think about his future, and pro ball, he hopes, is it.
"I've got a chance," Slavik said. "If I can do what it takes, I'll probably get a shot. It doesn't really matter where, what position, what round, what money. I just want to play. I'll pitch if I have to, they may not want me on the mound, but if that's what I need, so be it."
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