Bo Thompson is back, 20 pounds lighter and ready to hit

Bo leads this year's Diamond Dogs

Bo leads this year’s Diamond Dogs

Jeff Hartsell The Charleston Post and Courier
Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 5:34 p.m.

During a recent Citadel baseball scrimmage, Bo Thompson surprised teammates and coaches by going from first to third. And no, it wasn’t from his first cheeseburger to his third. The newly “svelte” Thompson sprinted from first base to third base on a single to right field, showing off the new flexibility and speed the College Home Run Derby-certified slugger hopes to show off this season. “I’ve lost 20 pounds since last season,” the 5-10 Thompson announced proudly. “I’m down to around 250.” That means, of course, that Thompson tipped the scales at about 270 last season, when he batted .299 and belted 14 home runs with 52 RBIs, good enough to earn a spot in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb.

Citadel fans need not worry that coach Fred Jordan will bat Bo in the leadoff spot and give him the green light to swipe second whenever he pleases. But they can expect the new Bo – call him Bo 2.0 – to be a bit more agile around the bag at first base and to run the bases with a tad more alacrity while still belting prodigious home runs. “Bo can pick up the weight room,” says Jordan, citing maximums of 385 in the bench press and 600 in the squat. “But he worked extremely hard with our strength and conditioning staff on flexibility, and boy, has it paid off. I joke all the time he might get a few bags (stolen bases) this year.”

Thompson’s appearance at the College Home Run Derby at TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series, solidified his stature as one of the top sluggers in college baseball. Thompson hit seven home runs in the Derby, four in the first round, three in the second. Rice’s Michael Aquino won the Derby in front of a crowd of 23,731 people. “One of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said Thompson, a junior from Mauldin. “The ballpark, the atmosphere, the guys I got to hang out with, it was great. And now I go to some places and people say, ‘Hey, were you in the Home Run Derby?’ ”

Despite his new physique, Thompson’s success this season will depend on his being the same old Bo that Citadel fans have come to love. “His swing is so flat and short, he doesn’t need to change anything,” Jordan said. “He just needs to be patient like he always has, look for that mistake and let it fly.” Playing first base and designated hitter and batting in the three-hole, Thompson will anchor a veteran lineup that could threaten last year’s total of 66 home runs, second-most in school history.

All-Southern Conference catcher Joe Jackson is gone to pro ball with his 13 homers and 67 RBIs, but Tyler Griffin, Calvin Orth, Mason Davis, Johnathan Stokes and Drew DeKerlegand all hit at least five homers last season, led by Griffin’s 12. Davis and All-SoCon outfielder Hughston Armstrong, who hit .379 last season, will set the table for those veteran hitters. The key to success for the Bulldogs, picked to finish second in the SoCon after falling to Elon in the title game last season, will be in the starting pitching. SoCon pitcher of the year Austin Pritcher also was drafted by MLB last year, leaving senior lefty Logan Cribb (4-3, 3.60 ERA) and junior lefty James Reeves (3-1, 4.01 ERA) as top candidates for Friday night duties.

For all the Bulldogs, the disappointment of how last season ended lingers. “Every time we talk about it, it’s tough,” Thompson said. “But when we talk about it in the weight room, we get pumped up. Our goal is to make it to the Big Dance.”


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