Look up the term “utility player” in the baseball dictionary and you’re likely to find Jessie Plumlee’s picture there.
The senior from Rowlett, Texas, has played six different positions in his four-year Sam Houston career.
As the Bearkats fight to earn their second consecutive Southland Conference baseball title, Plumlee has started at three positions this season alone (catcher, second base and first base).
“Every game it’s a riddle where I’ll be in the lineup,” Plumlee said with smile. “Playing so many positions is fun. Every day is a new challenge. I was a utility guy in high school and I like the role. I'll play anywhere the coaches think will help us earn a championship and get back to the NCAA tournament.”
Since his freshman year at Sam Houston in 2010, the six-foot, kinesiology major has started 84 games at second base, 24 at third, 12 as catcher, five at first base, four in left field and twice as a designated hitter.
Plumlee played mostly at second base (53 starts) as a junior in 2012 when Sam Houston won its first Southland regular season baseball championship since 1989.
Last year’s 40 victories marked only the third time the Kats have won 40 or more games as an NCAA Division I baseball program. For the first time in program history, Sam Houston earned national rankings in each of the major college baseball polls, climbing as high as No. 20 in one poll.
The season climaxed with Sam Houston’s seventh NCAA Division I baseball regional appearance as the Kats earned an at-large berth in the Houston regional. The Kats defeated No. 1 seed Rice and reached the finals against College World Series participant Arkansas to equal the program’s best NCAA post-season performance ever.
“Last year’s seniors provided great leadership and were good role models,” Plumlee said. “Give them a lot of credit for our success. This year’s seniors are trying to do that and more.”
Sam Houston is locked in a fierce battle for first place in the Southland this season with seven teams. Just two games separate first from seventh place in the standings.
Overcoming early season injury problems, Plumlee has been an important factor in the team’s late-season push. He has produced eight multiple-RBI games, posted a 10-game hitting streak (second longest on the team) and the squad’s longest reached base streak of 19 games.
“Jessie is a true team player,” Sam Houston head coach David Pierce said. “He’s ready to do whatever we ask to help us win.”
Plumlee stands as the 2013 squad’s second leading hitter with a .326 batting average that includes 40 total hits, seven doubles, two home runs and 20 runs batted in. He has started 12 contests at catcher, 21 at second base and the last five games at first base. The Bearkats won six in a row going into this weekend’s series at Don Sanders Stadium.
“We want to continue the Sam Houston baseball tradition of success,” Plumlee said. “Last year, the team had an unexpected chemistry from the first game. We’re still a young team this year and we started a little slow. But we’ve really been getting things together lately.”
As an all-district performer for coach Paul Carmon at Rowlett High School, Plumlee led his team to district and regional titles and hit .450 as a senior.
“Jim Blair (former SHSU assistant baseball coach) recruited me at a summer ball showcase at TCU,” Plumlee said. “I visited the campus and liked the atmosphere here at Sam Houston. Coach (Mark) Johnson was great. When he retired and coach Pierce took over the program, the transition was easy. Coach came with outstanding credentials from a nationally ranked program at Rice. From the first day, working with the new staff was great.”
Sam Houston closes out the regular season with series in Huntsville against Nicholls (May3-5) and Central Arkansas (May 16-18) and on the road at Southeastern Louisiana (May 10-12).
The Southland Conference post-season tournament begins May 22 at Constellation Field in Sugar Land with the winner earning the league’s automatic NCAA playoff berth. The Kats hope to be playing in June when the NCAA Regionals begin.
When his college baseball career ends, Plumlee has his eye on a new career.
“I want to become a fire fighter,” Plumlee said. “After graduation, I’ll be enrolling in fire fighter school.”