HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) _ As a simple matter of chronological fate, Danny Lynch always has followed his older brother, Tim.
But, make no mistake, when it came time to take the next step from high school baseball, it was Danny Lynch’s decision to follow in his brother’s footsteps and venture from Florida’s Atlantic Coast to Hattiesburg.
“In high school, it used to bother me a lot,” Lynch said, sitting down to talk about his second year at the University of Southern Mississippi and the upcoming 2020 baseball season. “You get those guys saying, ‘You can only go to Southern Miss because Tim was there.’ That affected me a lot.
“But as I came here, (USM’s coaches) said, ‘Look, we don’t care about that. Just be your own player,’ and that’s what I’ve kind of embraced, being my own player.”
Just being himself was more than good enough to earn Danny Lynch the starting job at third base, the position Tim Lynch once roamed before he moved later in his career across the diamond to first base.
Danny Lynch will be staying put, position-wise, anchoring the hot corner when the Golden Eagles welcome Murray State University to Pete Taylor Park Friday evening for the first of a three-game set to open the 2020 season.
When it comes to the batting order, Lynch indeed will be moving, rising from the last third of the lineup into the meat of the order.
“Danny’s going to hit in the middle of the order, a left-handed bat who was a very good freshman for us last year and brings that experience into his sophomore year,” USM coach Scott Berry said.
Lynch earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors after appearing in all 61 games (59 starts) and hitting .296 with a .357 on-base percentage. He had 63 hits in 213 at-bats, with two home runs and seven doubles.
He got better as the season progressed. In his first 12 games, Lynch hit just .167 (6-for-36). After 24 games, he had raised his average to .246, and over the final 47 games of the season, he raised his average another 50 points.
Lynch hit .310 against Conference USA pitching and in eight postseason games (C-USA and NCAA), he carried a .300 batting average with a .467 slugging percentage.
“The pitching is so much better at this level, trickier,” Lynch said, “so, I had to change everything that I ever had done my entire life and do it completely different. That was the biggest adjustment.
“My high school swing worked well enough to get some hits and be OK. So, in early intrasquads, I was OK, but doing a lot of work, I got really comfortable kind of in the back half of last season in terms of kind of knowing how I want my swing to work.”
Lynch said he continued to tinker with his swing during the summer playing for the High Point-Thomasville HiToms of the Coastal Plain League, where he hit .319 with 25 RBIs in 26 games.
“This summer, again, it wasn’t an overhaul, because I knew what the swing was going to be, but just some adjustments, making myself more balanced and more comfortable in the swing,” Lynch said. “I do have a little bit of an upper plane, which I think is natural coming from lefties. I really don’t think about it too much.
“I think about the beginning of my swing and how I can be the quickest I can, how my hands can be as quick as they can while staying in the zone as long as they can.”
The Lynch said his primary focus was on his defense, his footwork and side-to-side movement. Last season, he led the Golden Eagles with 14 errors.
“At that time, I think I did about as much as I could offensively, though I learned a lot over the summer,” Lynch said. “But I think I could have done a lot better defensively, and that’s something I worked a lot on in the fall.
“Mainly side to side, and decision-making on those in-between balls, where I can either go back a step and get it high, or get it on the short hop, that step up.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Lynch comes into the year 20 pounds lighter, and Berry said he trusts Lynch’s instincts implicitly.
“Danny’s very comfortable at third,” Berry said. “When it comes to his athleticism, he’s not the fastest guy on the team, but his reaction and game IQ offsets that.
“He’s always in the moment. He’s never mentally just out of it over there.”
And he’s mentally tough enough to follow the path of an older brother, an All-Conference USA performer, knowing that comparisons would be inevitable.
But coming to games at Pete Taylor Park with his family, Danny Lynch said he got a good feel for USM baseball.
“We were probably in Hattiesburg just as much as we were in Jupiter (Fla., his hometown) some of those years,” Lynch said. “Southern Miss kind of gave Tim a chance, and then coming here, it was like the whole community just embraces baseball.
“The whole community is like a family, and I always just felt really welcome here.”
Welcomed by a community and program that has let Danny Lynch just be himself.
“I’ve learned from some of the stuff (Tim’s) told me, but overall, it’s just about being me,” Lynch said. “That’s pretty much it.”