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Flemm out to fast start for Freeport

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 9:48 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Freeport' senior James Flemm, works out with the during a recent Yellow Jacket practice.Tuesday April 18, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Freeport' senior James Flemm, works out with the during a recent Yellow Jacket practice.Tuesday April 18, 2017.

James Flemm makes a typical request regarding Freeport's weekend baseball practice schedule.

“Every other kid is happy with a noon time,” said Ed Carr, the Yellowjackets' first-year coach. “James will say, ‘How about 8 (a.m.)?' It doesn't matter if the field is soaking wet (with dew).”

Yes, Flemm, unlike the stereotypical teenager, is a morning person — “I love just getting up in the morning and starting my day, so I want to get up and just get baseball (done) so I have all day to do whatever I want, just go outside all day,” he said — and Carr sometimes compromises with the senior, scheduling practice at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday with Freeport off from school for spring break.

In terms of production, the early bird is getting the worm.

Flemm leads the Yellowjackets (6-3, 3-2 Section 1-4A) with a .545 batting average, two homers and 19 RBIs in just nine games. He has more extra-base hits — 11 — than singles and more RBIs than outs.

The numbers already surpass his totals from last season, when he hit .264 with one homer and 11 RBIs.

“I couldn't be prouder of a kid and happier of a kid for his start,” Carr said. “He's always had that bat speed, he's always had the really fast bat, but there were some inconsistencies there, and we were trying to get to the bottom of why. We tinkered with his stance a little bit, and he found a comfort zone. He's been pounding the ball.”

Typical of his preferences, Flemm got an early start on the season. As one of two returning starters, he worked frequently with Carr during the offseason months to refine his approach at the plate.

The stance Flemm eventually settled on looks rather drastic — a wide, open look with low feet. Carr compared it to Jeff Bagwell, the former Houston Astros first baseman who hit 449 home runs and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

“It kind of looks like I'm doing a split,” said Flemm, who admitted to never seeing Bagwell play. “It may seem uncomfortable, but it's helping me a lot. It actually only took one or two days (to get comfortable).”

Flemm's new approach allows him to better hit offspeed pitches and improves his ability to hit to all fields.

“I sent out his spray chart to the kids on the team and took his name off of it and said, this is what a .600 batting average looks like,” Carr said. “His spray chart looked like a fireworks display. I don't know where you pitch him right now. He's hitting everything hard in all directions of the field.”

Flemm hit three doubles and a triple against Leechburg and homered against Highlands and Deer Lakes. The latter blast came against the Lancers' Zach Lubick, a summer teammate of Flemm's.

“It was kind of cool getting to face him finally,” Flemm said. “It was like bragging rights, I guess, hitting a home run off him.”

In addition to leading the team in hitting, Flemm is one of the Yellowjackets' top pitchers with a 2-1 record and 1.40 ERA in six appearances.

He's also one of the major reasons why Freeport, with just two returning starters, looks strong in its bid for a second consecutive WPIAL playoff appearance.

“It was important for the program (to have success) because of the fact that it's coach Carr's first year, and I'd like to get his name out there and show that he's going to help the program down the road,” Flemm said. “I think we're having a pretty good year so far. I don't think many people expected us being as good as we are right now, and I just hope we keep the momentum going and hopefully win the section.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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