Most college students spend their summer free from books. Some take on summer jobs. One local product, though, is using this free time to get better on the baseball diamond.
Former Maiden and current Liberty University baseball player Justin Sizemore is playing for the Martinsville Mustangs from Martinsville, Va.
The Mustangs are a member of the Coastal Plain League (CPL), one of the best summer collegiate wood bat baseball leagues in the country.
The league includes 15 teams from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The closest teams to the Catawba County area are the Gastonia Grizzlies and Forest City Owls.
This year, the CPL is celebrating its 15th season, which starts at the end of May and ends in the middle of August.
Sizemore’s coaches at Liberty got him a spot on the Mustangs’ roster after he played against Martinsville last summer with the Central Virginia Blue Sox of the Central Virginia Southern Collegiate League.
Sizemore said he decided to play in the league this summer for a few main reasons.
“I wanted to play this summer to get better,” Sizemore said. “My coaches at Liberty tell me the only way I’m going to get better is to be playing and working on my game. I felt like that’s what I needed to do, so I dedicated my summer to baseball.”
The work that Sizemore has put in has certainly paid off, as he has seen improvement on the college diamond.
In his freshman campaign at Liberty, Sizemore got limited playing time. In 18 games with the Flames, Sizemore hit .143, had one double and drove in four RBIs.
He vastly improved in his sophomore season. Sizemore got significant playing time, playing in 38 games and started in 31 of those.
He batted .231 with 16 runs, 24 hits, four doubles, four home runs and 15 RBIs. The Flames finished 35-24 overall .
The Flames’ 18-9 record in the Big South Conference was second best, just behind Coastal Carolina.
Sizemore said he’s tried to improve each season.
“I didn’t get to play that much my freshman year,” Sizemore said. “I tried to take advantage of the opportunity when I did play. I tried to mature from my freshman to my sophomore year. Last year, I thought I had a bigger roll on the team. I did the best I could. I worked harder in the weight room, and on and off the field. I just gave it my all when I went in the game.”
This summer with the Mustangs, Sizemore is second on the team in runs (23), fifth in hits (31) and leads the team in home runs (five).
The Mustangs completed the first half of the season, which ended on July 1, in third place in the Western Division of the CPL with a record of 13-13. To start the second half of the season, the Mustangs are 5-6.
The Mustangs have a chance to play for the Petitt Cup, the league’s championship.
If the team wins the second half of the season or has the second-best overall record, they will qualify.The last time Martinsville made the playoffs was in 2007.
Sizemore said he and his tesammates are making it a goal to get back there.
“This is a great group of guys,” Sizemore said. “We are all trying to come together and win. It is different than school ball, of course, but everyone’s main goal is to win, make the postseason and go as far as we can.”