COVINGTON, Ga. — Kyle Shivers is having the season of a lifetime.
Dating back to the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Eastside junior has come to the plate in each of the Eagles’ 19 games this season. And in each of the 19 — whether it be in his first at-bat, his final one or somewhere between — he’s recorded a hit.
In nine of those games, he’s done it more than once.
Following Eastside’s doubleheader sweep of Johnson (Gainesville) on Tuesday, Shivers has now collected 36 hits in 67 at-bats, resulting in a .537 batting average. But these aren’t just cheap singles. When Shivers connects the barrel of his bat with the white-and-red sphere of cowhide, more often than not he’s jetting out of the batter’s box with the intention of rounding first base.
Shivers has 16 doubles this year. With nine games remaining on Eastside’s regular-season slate, he sits just three two-baggers away from cracking Georgia’s all-time top-10 list for doubles in a single season.
It’s the type of campaign many kids dream about having, but Eastside’s starting second baseman isn’t quite ready to take the big picture into account. For now, he’s approaching his season strictly on a game-by-game basis and boiling his success down to two simple steps: see ball, hit ball.
“I’ve been feeling good. I’ve been seeing the ball really well and just hitting it the other way. That’s all I think about,” Shivers said. “I just go out there and play baseball.”
As things currently stand, there’s a four-way tie in Georgia for 10th-most doubles in a season at 19. The mark is held by Gainesville’s Skyler Webber (2011), Lassister’s Rob Dohorty (1989), Walton’s Spencer Kieboom (2008) and Vidalia’s Kyle Aldridge (1995).
Above that quartet, you’ll find a pair of hitters — Sequoyah’s Evan Martin (2007) and Calhoun’s Braden Ashworth (2001) — tied for sixth place at 20 doubles, and another duo — North Gwinnett’s Christopher Hawkins (2010) and Pike County’s Kody Adams (2011)— tied for third with 21.
Lanier County’s Alex Lee set the single-season doubles record when he notched 28 in 1989, and that milestone remains unmatched. The closest anyone from the Peach State has come was former Oconee County Warrior — and current Pittsburgh Pirate — Adam Frazier, who legged out 24 doubles in 2010.
So, how rare is Shivers’ breakout season?
With three more doubles, he will become the first Georgia baseball player to crack the all-time top-10 list in a decade. With four or five, he’ll shoot himself up into a tie among the top six. With a half dozen, he’ll trail only two players— one of which is set to embark on his sixth Major League season next week.
Yeah, that rare.
“He is on one of those streaks that’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals,” Eastside head coach Brandon Crumbley said of Shivers. “The one thing about Kyle is that he doesn’t try to do anything different; his approach still stays the same. He hunts fastballs, and when he gets one to hit, he barrels it up.”
Shivers isn’t one to mount a high horse or bask in accolades. Whether he’s going 5-for-5 against Ola, clinching a victory in walk-off fashion against Jones County or assisting a routine put-out in the field, he’s invariably viewed as just one of the guys.
And the guys love him for it.
He’s revered by his teammates for his love of anime and has been dubbed the “Milk Man,” stemming from his eccentric consumption of a gallon of chocolate milk — straight from the plastic container — on a road trip earlier this season. It’s unusual to see his emotions elevated or deflated, regardless of circumstance.
And while those qualities make him a consummate teammate and leader, they also translate to his on-field success.
“That’s what it takes to be successful at this game,” Crumbley said. “It’s all mental, so him having that even-keeled approach in his back pocket just makes him even better.”
Shivers doesn’t currently hold any scholarship offers from college programs. Asked his feelings about that, he shrugs and intones, “I’ve just got to be better.”
Despite the scouting report continuing to lengthen and opposing teams altering their pitching approach, Shivers does continue to get better. He remains locked in, eyes glued to ball as it leaves the opposing pitcher’s hand and hurtles toward him, and trusts his timing and mechanics to do the rest.
It’s a simple formula, but one that’s helped him produce one of the best seasons in the history of the state. All he needs to do is what he’s been doing all along: see ball, hit ball.
And there’s no reason to expect anything else.
“If he continues this tear into this summer, his phone is going to start ringing a little bit. Mine’s going to start ringing a little bit. People will start to notice,” Crumbley said. “He’s an intelligent hitter and he stays in his approach and hits fastballs when he’s supposed to. I’m excited to see how he finishes.”
Shivers and the Eagles (14-5, 4-2) will be back on the diamond Monday, March 29, when they host Region 8-AAAAA adversary Apalachee at 5:55 p.m.