Nevada Wolf Pack outfielder Jaylon McLaughlin has found a new tune at the plate.
McLaughlin sings to himself during every at-bat, a pregame ritual he’s developed in his three seasons at Nevada.
“The team makes fun of me because I sing Moana at the plate,” he said. “So I just sing my song in my head while I hit and I just go with the flows and just capitalize on the right pitch. I always thought I could sing, so why not combine them, you know?”
McLaughlin may want to stick to the diamond. The junior’s .353 batting average ranks fifth in the Mountain West Conference to go along with a conference-best 15 stolen bases this year.
A switch-hitter, McLaughlin’s smooth swing translates to base hits down the first and third base lines. His blazing speed on the basepaths will stretch routine singles into doubles.
If McLaughlin settles at first base, his long strides give him a great jump to steal second or third.
“Baseball is a momentum game,” McLaughlin said. “So I just try to capitalize on any situation whenever I can to help my guys. So If that means going for extra bases or stealing a bag myself, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
Currently, in his junior season, McLaughlin’s defensive versatility has given the Wolf Pack some flexibility of their own.
McLaughlin started 31 games at shortstop last season. He was moved to center field this season in order for junior Dillan Shrum and sophomore Tyler Bosetti to rotate between shortstop and second base.
The junior has made a seamless transition to the outfield. His speed and athleticism help him get a better reaction on the ball.
“I just try to get a good jump of the ball,” he said. “That way I can adjust to where I’m at and get good positioning before it falls.”
McLaughlin was a 38th round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft by the New York Mets. He lettered in three years in baseball at Santa Monica High School before he committed to Nevada. The rangy outfielder was named Defensive Player of the Year and was second-team All-Ocean League during his high school career.
McLaughlin showcased his versatile glove in his freshman season with the Wolf Pack. He started six games at second base, seven at third base, five at shortstop and one appearance as the designated hitter.
He found a permanent role as the starting shortstop in his sophomore season, starting 31 games. McLaughlin hit .252 with 26 hits, two doubles and eight RBIs. He tied for sixth in the Mountain West with three triples.
In the full swing of his junior season, McLaughlin is ready to help Nevada stay above .500. The Pack’s 3-0 victory over New Mexico Saturday snapped a four-game losing streak.
“We gotta work on taking blows,” he said. “With our team, we need to grind out games to win so we need to take our opponent’s best shot and respond at all times.”
With McLaughlin’s speed and defensive versatility, the Nevada Wolf Pack are finding their rhythm as a team.
“Hey, what can I say except you’re welcome?” McLaughlin sang from the Moana soundtrack song “You’re Welcome”.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.