Altmann keeps swinging hot bat for Wood Ducks
Josh Altmann of the Down East Wood Ducks points at the sky after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning of Monday's victory over the Salem Red Sox at Historic Grainger Stadium. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News
Josh Altmann hasn’t cooled off yet.
After going 2-for-5 with a home run in the eighth inning of the Down East Wood Ducks’ 6-3 victory over the Salem Red Sox Monday, Altmann has continued a torrid pace. In the past nine games heading into Tuesday’s finale with the Red Sox, the DEWD second baseman has batted .351 with six home runs, two doubles and 14 RBIs. The Woodies have also gone 6-3 during the stretch and DEWD manager Spike Owen said his new leadoff hitter has been a strong factor.
“He’s been fun to watch,” Owen said. “He’s grinded through some difficult times at the start of the season and really, going back to the first of the year was swinging the bat really well and not getting results. Consistency went away, which happens in this game, but he battled through it and the tear he’s been on has been really impressive. The home runs, good at-bats, drawing walks — that’s why I’m leading him off right now.
"He’s not a prototypical leadoff guy, but the patience he’s shown at the plate is a result of the way he’s hitting.”
Altmann had a slow start to the season, batting just .205 in the first half, including .128 in the month of April. He has improved his batting each month, hitting .246 in May and .323 in June, including six home runs and 18 RBIs.
“I really just think it’s the mentality of never giving up on the first half,” Altmann said. “Everyone hits those ups and downs, so I just tried to stick to my routine, stick to my mentality at the plate and now (I’m) starting to find more holes.”
With his home run Monday, Altmann set a franchise record with his 14th blast on the season, one ahead of teammate Anderson Tejeda. The 14 home runs is a DEWD season record -- with 58 games remaining.
“Right now, I’m just worried about putting the bat on the ball pretty hard,” Altmann said. “Whether it goes over the wall is really not up to me — I’m just trying to find my pitch and hit it hard. Me and (Woodies hitting coach Kenny) Hook have been working hard on my swing, making sure I’m on time more consistently and putting my ‘A’ swing on the ball.”
Owen said moving Altmann to the leadoff role was more to shake up the lineup and the plate patience of the second baseman.
“It wasn’t anything I had been thinking about,” Owen said. “Our offense was struggling in the month of June, so with the at-bats he was having and getting on base, drawing the walks — his on-base percentage being good regardless of what his average was — I just felt like he gave us the best shot to get somebody on base at the top of the order and let the big guys do some damage.
"With that said, he’s the one doing damage at the leadoff spot.”
The Wood Ducks are looking to secure a playoff spot in the second half of the season after finishing third in the Carolina League's Southern Division in the first. With the resurgence of Altmann, a league-best 28-14 record at Grainger Stadium and the knowledge of being able to come back last year, the idea isn’t farfetched.
Altmann played on the 2017 Wood Ducks, a team coming back from a 7.5-game deficit in the standings with 16 games to play to win the Southern Division and eventually become co-champions.
“As long as we play the way we’re capable of playing, it doesn’t matter how many games back we are,” Altmann said. “We’re going to give it a good try to push for the playoffs and last year was definitely a first-hand look at that.”