Jeremiah Jenkins is the starting first baseman for the University of Maine baseball team. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

Jeremiah Jenkins had an impressive freshman season for the University of Maine’s baseball team last spring, earning All-America East second team and Rookie team honors.

This season, he’s taken his game to an even higher level.

Jenkins, who hit .284 with 7 homers and 27 runs-batted-in in 46 games a year ago, as of Friday was hitting .380 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs through 26 games. He is sixth in the country among 295 Division I schools in RBIs per game (1.54) and 18th in homers per game (.42).

He is 26th in slugging percentage at .760 and 30th in on-base percentage at .519.

The 6-foot-4, 238-pound, who is the Black Bears’ first baseman after being the designated hitter a year ago, has been on a tear of late.

He entered this weekend’s important America East series at Binghamton with an eight-game hitting streak in which he has hit .515 (17-for-33) with five homers and 21 RBIs.

“It’s crazy how much he has developed,” said UMaine junior second baseman Quinn McDaniel. “He put in a lot of work in the offseason. His consistency has gotten a lot better.”

Jenkins said he has changed his mindset in the batter’s box.

umaine baseball triumphs

“Last year, I swung at everything,” Jenkins said. “I’m more selective this season. That allows me to be more dangerous.”

The left-handed-hitting Jenkins has concentrated on hitting the ball to the opposite field rather than being a pull hitter. Jenkins said both head coach Nick Derba and his father, Thomas Jenkins, told him it was important for him to learn to hit the ball to the opposite field.

“During the offseason, I would put the ball on a [hitting tee] on the outside corner and I’d hit it to the left side of the cage,” Jenkins said. “I also tried to hit the ball to the left off the pitching machine or during batting practice.”

Jenkins has hit safely in 20 of UMaine’s 26 games and has 11 multi-hit games. He has driven in at least two runs on nine occasions, including a pair of six-RBI games.

“He is super intimidating in the box,” said Albany freshman pitcher Dylan Banner, who surrendered a homer and two singles to Jenkins in Sunday’s 4-3 UMaine victory. “You don’t want to give him anything in the [strike] zone.”

Jenkins has matured mentally and has a better understanding of hitting, Derba said.

“Last year, he was just whacking away,” Derba said. “He has applied an approach and is utilizing his abilities. He is also in better shape.”

Jenkins said he spent a lot of time in the weight room during the offseason to get stronger and it has paid off.

standout player: quinn mcdaniel

“I lifted almost every day and have gotten stronger, leaner and faster. It was a good offseason for me. It’s windy up here so you have to muscle up to hit the ball out of here sometimes,” Jenkins said.

UMaine senior catcher Ryan Turenne said Jenkins is a more confident hitter this season.

“Whenever he gets up there, everyone knows he’s going to do something,” Turenne said.

The 19-year-old Jenkins said playing first base this season has benefitted his hitting, adding that it can be hard to “lock in” to the game when you’re the designated hitter.

“I enjoy playing first. I’ve played there my whole life. Defense is my biggest deficiency right now. I’m working a lot on it,” Jenkins said. “I want to make sure my teammates trust me picking the ball. I’m having fun.”

The Black Bears lead America East with their 9-0 record, the program’s best start in conference play since the 1991 UMaine team went 13-0 in the North Atlantic Conference.

UMaine, 15-11 overall, has won eight in a row and 12 of its last 13 while defending America East tournament champ Binghamton is in second place with a 5-1 conference mark. Binghamton is 18-10 overall and has won six straight and 14 of 17.

The Bearcats at 13-1 at home.

The teams conclude their three-game series at 11 a.m. on Sunday.