Michael Roberts had never hit three home runs in a game or a walk-off home run. With both of those bucket-list items crossed off in one contest, Roberts recently achieved another first – National Player of the Week.
Roberts, a Surry Community College freshman, was named the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) Division III Player of the Week on Wednesday after hitting four home runs and driving in eight more during a three-game span from April 2-8. The 6-1, 210-pounder also hit for a blistering .538 batting average during that same stretch.
“He’s a freshman from Surry Central High School and we are real glad to have him. He is a quality young man, well mannered, does things the right way,” Surry head baseball coach Tim Collins said. “He is an extremely hard worker. He’s the kind of player you like to have, ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ always has a smile on his face and just a pleasure to be around.”
Most of Roberts’ damage came in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday against Thomas Nelson Community College. In that contest, Roberts hit three homers and drove in six of the Knights’ seven runs in a 7-4 victory. He saved the best for last, a walk-off three-run dinger in the bottom of the ninth with two outs.
“That was definitely the highlight of my career. I haven’t hit three home runs in a game. I haven’t hit two in a game since little league so that was a huge surprise. And the walk-off was just icing on the cake,” Roberts said. “I have just been working out a lot lately and feeling good. It was our first region game and we were trying to get a win.”
Roberts is currently tied for fifth in the nation in the Division III JUCO ranks with seven home runs in 19 games, but he leads the country in home runs per at bat, Collins said. His .483 batting average currently puts him in the top 20 hitters out of all 96 Division III JUCO schools.
Suffering two separate ligament injuries that cost him his sophomore and junior seasons at next door Surry Central, Roberts never hit more than four home runs in a year during high school. He really doesn’t have an answer to where his power surge has come from.
“I don’t know why I have been hitting with more power since I got to college,” Roberts said. “I am working out but I didn’t think it would be that big of a change. I guess I am just seeing the ball really well.”
Roberts also hit a solo home run in the Knights’ 4-3 loss to USC-Union on Tuesday. Collins isn’t quite sure where Roberts’ power is coming from either, but he isn’t about to complain.
“He was a very good hitter at Surry Central. He didn’t hit as many home runs there as he has here, but he is a year older and his body is a year older,” Collins said. “He has matured and has a real good approach at the plate and he is doing a real good job for us.”
Roberts is also a versatile athlete in the field, where he has seen action this year for Surry as a third baseman, first baseman and at left field. Collins said he is trying to play Roberts more at first base because he thinks that is where his future lies.
“There’s no doubt he will play at the next level. He lost a couple of years to injuries in high school, but with his talent, and he is a big kid and very athletic, he has pretty much everything a four-year school looks for,” Collins said. “He is big, athletic, strong, has a good arm and hits the ball well. He doesn’t have a weak part of his game. And if he continues to play the way he has been, he may have a lot of different options in the future.”