Brendyn Stillman verified what the stats already could tell anyone about what he felt like on the opening weekend of the 2020 season.
"The ball just looked like a beach ball," he remembered. "I just felt like I couldn't miss."
After a doubleheader day where he went 9-for-10 with four home runs on just the second afternoon of the season – a sweep for St. Bonaventure at Mount St. Mary's – Stillman was well on his way to a record-making season with the Bonnies.
When the Bonnies finished their annual trip to Florida March 7, Stillman was still red hot, owning a .519 batting average.
Unfortunately for the Bonnies, that would be the final game of the season.
With all spring sports shut down due to Covid-19, the season had come to an unceremonious close. Though the season could not have ended in more heartbreaking fashion, there is one silver lining to the abbreviated campaign.
A check of the final national statistics shows that Stillman – not a star from a Power 5, Southern school with an opportunity to play outdoors all year long – finished the year leading all Division I players in batting average.
His .519 mark – which goes along with a .594 on-base and obscene 1.259 slugging percentage – included eight extra-base hits in 27 at-bats – six homers and two doubles. He compiled 14 hits, walked five times and struck out in just four plate appearances.
Though the season was cut short, people around the country now know Stillman's name after just seven games at the Division I level following his transfer last summer from junior college.
"To be able to lead the country in batting average is a tremendous honor," he said. "To get off to that hot start and help put my name on the radar is a great feeling; it definitely helped calm my nerves with this being my first season playing D-I baseball. Personally I'm not a "me" guy, baseball is a team sport and I'm more honored to have the opportunity to help this team win games and put St. Bonaventure on the map."
Stillman credited the protection behind him in the lineup for his amazing start. Fellow junior Tyler Kelder, the national player of the week following the opening weekend, smacked seven home runs and hit .387 while another classmate, Matthew Williams also hit .310 in the early going.
"It's great having those two behind me. I can be patient, take pitches," he said of what was shaping up to be a potent Bonnies lineup. "I'm just trying to get on base for those guys behind me to drive in runs; whether it's me doing it or those guys, it doesn't matter."
He also ranked second in the nation in hits per game and home runs per game, behind only his teammate Kelder in the latter category. Stillman's slugging percentage also paced all D-I players.
Now, like many players, Stillman is focused on an uncertain future. The Central New York native is taking online classes and trying to follow a workout plan in the hopes that summer ball will go on as scheduled.
"I am interested in playing summer ball, but have not made a commitment to any team at this time. In the meantime, Coach Fiske took the time to put together an at home workout for us to do during these crazy times," he said. "I'll be doing conditioning to stay in shape and work on my speed. I'll be hitting at the local batting cage any time the weather lets me. I also have a couple people who have volunteered to throw live to me to help me further work on pitch recognition and plate discipline."
And while he and the rest of his teammates never had the chance to chase program records this spring, a check of the 2020 national spring statistics will always show the same name at the top of the batting lists:
By Scott Eddy, Assistant Athletic Director for Athletics Communications
It was a shortened season, but let the record show the name at the top of the national batting charts:@BonniesBaseball junior Brendyn Stillman.— Bonnies Athletics (@GoBonnies) March 31, 2020
�� https://t.co/9UXKVzonb7@NCAACWS #Bonnies || #Unfurl pic.twitter.com/TZDTuaR1ep
The nation got a chance to meet the Bonaventure Bash Bros last weekend ���� pic.twitter.com/d7Xhz9ibsi— Bonnies Baseball (@BonniesBaseball) February 26, 2020
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