University of Maine freshman designated hitter Jeremiah Jenkins plays in a spring 2022 game for UMaine. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

ORONO, Maine — University of Maine freshman designated hitter Jeremiah Jenkins will always remember his first at-bat as a college baseball player.

He went from facing high school pitchers who threw between 78-83 mph to facing Louisiana State University’s Eric Reyzelman, who can pump his fastball between 94-97 mph.

There were 10,303 people at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when Jenkins strolled to the plate in the eighth inning of a 21-6 loss back on Feb. 20.

“It was very exciting. It was a big change. As I was stepping into the box, everyone was booing me,” Jenkins said with a grin. “I was thinking ‘Wow, this is what it’s all about.’ I’m playing a top five school and I’m facing one of the best pitchers in college baseball.

“You can’t beat that. It was a great experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he added.

Jenkins struck out but he fouled off three pitches in his seven-pitch at-bat.

Reyzelman has struck out 30 hitters in 17 ⅔ innings and has a 1.53 earned run average.

The left handed-hitting Jenkins got off to a slow start but has been on a tear of late. He will take a 13-game hitting streak into this weekend’s three-game series against defending America East Tournament champion the New Jersey Institute of Technology with games at 4 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday.

UMaine and NJIT are tied with Stony Brook atop the America East standings with 7-2 league records. UMaine is 10-13 overall and NJIT is 12-11.

During his streak, he has hit .316 with three homers, three doubles, a triple and 11 runs-batted in. He has also scored 11 runs.

He has raised his average to .282 and he is third on the team in homers (4), runs batted-in (14) and total bases (40).

“He has been awesome. He is a great kid. He is constantly smiling,” said graduate student and first baseman Joe Bramanti.

“The way he goes about the game is fun to watch. He makes me feel younger. He is going to be a great player for years to come.”

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Jenkins said the adjustment from high school to Division I college baseball is a significant one that requires a lot of work.

The most challenging aspect is learning to hit offspeed pitches, especially change-ups, he noted.

He added that it is also important to be an effective situational hitter. He is the No. 2 hitter in the lineup so his job sometimes entails moving runners along.

“You don’t always need a bomb. If there is a runner on second [with no outs], you have to do your job and advance him to third,” said Jenkins who, like the rest of his teammates, continues to focus on trying to be a good two-strike hitter.

“I have been very pleased with him,” said UMaine head coach Nick Derba. “His bat-to-ball skills are second to none. His ability to put the ball in play for someone who takes as healthy a hack as he does is remarkable.”

He also said Jenkins has a very advanced approach to hitting and sees the ball well.

Jenkins has been happy with his season to date but is quick to point out that “I could be doing better.”

His father, a former multi-sport athlete, has had the biggest influence on his life.

“I love him to death. He’s my hero. He gives me great wisdom that I use every day,” said Jenkins, who gifted his family and friends with a pair of homers and five hits in 16 at-bats in a three-game sweep of the University of Maryland Baltimore County last weekend in Baltimore, 39 miles from his childhood home.

Jenkins said moving to Orono from Baltimore was a “big culture shock” but he likes life in Maine.

“I really enjoy the people. There are a lot of nice people here. It’s a great environment,” he said.

UMaine, which scored 45 runs and pounded out 54 hits in its sweep of UMBC, has been led by Jeff Mejia (.360-0 homers-13 RBIs), Quinn McDaniel (.330-5-19) and Bramanti (.289-9-37) along with Jenkins. NJIT is paced by twins David Marcano (.374-2-16) and Julio Marcano (.294-4-19) along with Jared Donnelly (.273-0-13).

UMaine is likely to send Caleb Leys (1-1, 3.45 earned-run average), LaBonte (2-2, 4.40) and Brett Erwin (1-3, 3.63) to the mound while NJIT will probably counter with Ryan Fischer (4-2, 3.95), Grant Vurpillat (3-2, 6.12) and Jake Rappaport (0-2, 6.94).