Ryan Addington (Cincinnati, Ohio) has made an impact table setting atop the Carson-Newman baseball team's lineup over the course of the past three seasons and with a career batting average nearing .300 with 32 stolen bases, the center fielder sets the tone for the Eagles in each and every contest.
The Cincinnati, Ohio native was an All-Conference selection in the Greater Miami Conference in 2013 while attending Lakota West High School as a senior. The speedy outfielder hit .333 while driving in 17 runs, recording 23 runs and swiping 13 stolen bases as senior to pave the way to Mossy Creek to play for Eagles' coach Tom Griffin.
As a freshman, Addington appeared in 16 games while starting three to record two hits and six runs. The freshman notched his first career stolen base against Limestone on Feb. 4, 2014 to begin a staple point of what the ball player would be known for at Carson-Newman.
"When I get on base, the other team's pitchers and fielders are worried about me stealing bases and that opens up holes for our hitters," Addington said. "You can hit and run and that will open up a hole on the right side. Stealing second base also allows me to get in scoring position without having to sacrifice an out to get me over. That really helps the team."
A season later as a sophomore, the reserve outfielder moved into the everyday role of the starting center fielder for the Eagles and appeared in 38 games before a hip flexor injury sidelined the outfielder for the final eight games of the season. Before the injury, Addington hit for a .268 average and scored 21 runs. The leadoff man recorded a team-high nine stolen bases and tallied six multi-hit games while also notching three multi-RBI days.
Due to the injury sustained, Addington had to rehab for the entirety of the offseason which included missing the fall practice schedule in the months leading into his junior season in 2016.
"During the fall it was hard because everyone was out here working hard every day," Addington said. "Seeing everyone working out and running and only being able to watch was just really hard. I focused really hard over the winter break to get my legs back under me and to just get them stronger. Once I got back on campus for the spring, I had to just keep working hard by being in the cage everyday working on whatever coach need me to work on. Once the season rolled around, all the results came."
The time off served the injured Addington well as the now junior blasted his first career home run at No. 15 North Georgia on Feb. 6. The solo shot to right field was the first home run for the center fielder in 134 career at-bats and set the stage for a promising third-year campaign.
The speedster has hit two more home runs since the time while accumulating a .314 batting average off 54 hits thus far into the season. With 20 RBIs, 45 runs scored and a team-leading 22 stolen bases, Addington is nearing the top-20 in stolen bases for all of Division II.
"We have really focused on trying to hit fastballs this year. That has been our motto to hunt down fastballs and that is what I have been trying to do out there," Addington said. "Once you get to two strikes, you just have to battle regardless of what pitch is coming. Once they leave something up you have to hit it. Over the summer, I was only allowed to work out upper body and that has really helped me to get a little bit more pop in the bat."
Now in the third year of the Carson-Newman baseball program, the Cincinnati, Ohio native has gone from student to teacher. In a time just a few short years ago, Addington would quietly watch those around him, ask for advice and simply sponge up any information he could all in trying to better himself into the baseball player he needed to be.
Now as an upperclassmen in 2016, the junior's role has changed as he is now a person that young players go to for such advice and a person they often look up to on how to play the game the right way.
"I love having the younger guys coming to me for advice now and I just love being able to help them improve their game and to give them the knowledge that I have," Addington said. "Ian Pung (Knoxville, Tenn.) is great example. He is always wanting to get better in the cage or in the outfield. It doesn't matter what it is, he always wants to get better and he comes to me for advice. It's really been a great experience."
The top-of-the-lineup hitter for the Eagles is undoubtedly coming into his own during his junior campaign and has helped career line improve to a .287 average off 86 hits, 72 runs scored and 32 stolen bases in 99 career games.
For the time being, Addington will do all he can to help his team finish differently from the way Carson-Newman began the year where the Eagles kicked off the 2016 season with four-straight losses. Since the span, C-N has gone 11 games over .500 at 26-15 and currently sit in a log jammed tie for third-place in the South Atlantic Conference with Newberry, Coker, Wingate and Lincoln Memorial with an 11-10 conference record.
Carson-Newman's final series of the regular season comes this weekend beginning on Friday, April 22 at the SAC's No. 2 team in the standings, arch-rival Tusculum. The season-ending series could play huge in the fate of Carson-Newman's standing for the SAC Baseball Championships on April 28.
"In the series with Tusculum, we just need to play the way we know we can play. It doesn't really matter what seed we are going into the tournament. We are going to come out and compete every pitch," Addington said. "It would be nice to win a couple of games in the series to get the first round bye, but if not, we just need to come out and play. Once we get into double elimination games, we will just go from there."
Addington will continue to use his good play and experience to help Carson-Newman in the remainder of his junior campaign as well as for the rest of the center fielder's career.