Bryce Hulett looks to stay consistent as Panthers make Omaha push


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Bryce Hullett swings the bat during a men’s baseball game versus Clemson on Friday.

By Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

For baseball players, sometimes it just clicks at the plate.

It’s certainly clicking as of late for senior first baseman Bryce Hulett, who is posting 1.175 OPS to this point in the season — the highest mark of his Pitt career, and good for No. 9 in a loaded ACC. Hulett’s rapid improvement is a welcome addition to the Panther offense this season.

Hulett put his power on display in game two in a series this past weekend against Clemson. The shot flew over the right-field wall. Once the ball connected with the bat, there was little doubt it would head over the fence. Hulett wasn’t always known for his long ball capability, but is seeing results after working to get stronger this offseason.

“I hit the weight room a lot harder this offseason,” Hulett said. “And I’ve gotten way more aggressive at the plate.”

The aggressiveness paid off as the home run put Pitt up 5-1 in the third inning, a lead the team didn’t surrender. The game was the second of a crucial series sweep in a Panther season that has been a rollercoaster. But Hulett’s play has been one of the few constants this season.

Hulett already has more home runs — five — in 22 games this season than in his prior two seasons combined. Hulett’s exponential growth in the batters’ box may be a surprise to some, but not to head coach Mike Bell.

“Bryce is taking what he’s learned the last few years and being more patient at the plate,” Bell said. “He hasn’t changed who he is, he’s just reaping the benefits of the work he’s put in.”

In his first season — shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic — Hulett posted a .339 average, a .413 on-base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage along with one home run.

Hulett saw a slight drop-off in 2021, as he only posted a .247 batting average, .364 on-base percentage and a .370 slugging percentage. But this season Hulett has boosted each of those numbers to .387, .495 and .680, respectively  — which are all team-leading and career highs.

Hulett attributed some of his progression this season to his work with hitting coach Ty Megahee.

“Working with coach Ty has me focusing more on the little things,” Hulett said. “Swinging at strikes early inside the count and just staying inside the ball. They just helped me improve upon my confidence.”

Megahee and Hulett worked with each other in spring ball to improve his batting. The two saw improvement in some metrics and knew that Hulett could be in for a big season.

“We went over numbers in the fall and we knew we had to keep it going,” Megahee said. “We told him not to change a thing.”

The beginning of the season didn’t get off to the hottest start for Hulett, though. During the month of February, he only tallied five RBIs with one home run. It seemed as if Hulett would continue his production from years prior. But Bell wasn’t concerned.

“Baseball is baseball,” Bell said. “There will be ups and downs but you just have to stay at-bat to at-bat, and we preached that.”

March was the turning point in Hulett’s season. He has doubled his RBI numbers and added four home runs on top of that. Hulett fully showcased his offensive talent and plate discipline in a game against High Point on March 9, hitting a home run along with two walks. The Panthers utilized his abilities on the way to a 15-5 victory on the road.

While Hulett leads the Panthers in most hitting categories, their offense as a whole has shined for most of the season and that is not necessarily represented by their win-loss record. The Panthers rank No. 5 in home runs in the ACC. Yet they are just 12-10 and are No. 12 in the ACC standings. The Panthers at times are lackluster against higher levels of competition, but Hulett believes the team’s culture can afford the Panthers a few big wins down the stretch.

“Chemistry is a big part of our program,” Hulett said. “Everyone clicks and gels and we know that will translate on the field.”

Everyone within the program knows Hulett has been successful this season. But everyone also knows that maintaining this success is key.

With a tough schedule coming up, Hulett and the Panthers know they will have to step up their game if they want to stay afloat in the ACC. Hulett is up for the challenge.

“I’ve been here for a while now,” Hulett said. “I know it will be a challenge but it will not be new to me anymore. I’m ready.”

While Hulett has welcomed the success, he’s trying to keep himself focused and not pay too much attention to statistics.

“Just to keep going,” Hulett said. “I don’t like to look at the numbers.”

Hulett was much less passive about the team’s aspirations for the rest of the season.

Omaha,” Hulett said. “That’s the goal.”