Fargo

Luke Sandy couldn't remember if he had a routine when he stepped to home plate. The batter's box and hitting has become second nature to the Fargo Shanley graduate and soon-to-be North Dakota State baseball player.

In order to remember that he taps home plate once and brings the bat up to his shoulder, Sandy had to get out of his car and pretend to walk up to home plate. At this point, it all feels like one fluent motion.

"I just love batting in baseball," Sandy said. "I think it's super fun to get hits, just the feeling when you catch the ball off the sweet spot and watch it ride for awhile."

Even a pretty big slump at this week's North Dakota American Legion Class AA state tournament in Williston shouldn't keep from breaking the Post 2 record for batting average in a season. Sandy is currently batting .527. The Post 2 record with a minimum of 100 at bats is Mike Jones' .455 in 2011.

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Sandy could go 0-for-20 and still break the record.

"His dad played Triple-A baseball with the Mets, so he's got a good bloodline," said Post 2 and Shanley coach Luke Rustad. "He's by far the hardest worker I've ever had. Just to watch him practice is unbelievable, and that's why he's so good."

Rustad has been coaching Sandy since eighth grade. It was Sandy's sophomore year when Rustad saw a step.

"He'd get out because he was undisciplined, but he could hit everything that was thrown at him," Rustad said. "You could see how talented he was. When Post 2 season came around I moved him up. You could see that he had ability that was pretty special."

Sandy struck out once during the high school season as a sophomore, but there was room for improvement. He added strength, discipline and a few weeks ago NDSU added Sandy's commitment to the Bison to play baseball.

"It was great because I had a lot of other coaches talking to me, but I wasn't interested," Sandy said. "I wanted to play baseball at a really high level and play close to home, so this is really nice for me."

Sandy partially tore his UCL in his right arm pitching three weeks ago, so he can't pitch or play shortstop for Post 2, but he's still getting to hit. He said he's most likely going to be able to avoid surgery before his career starts at NDSU.

The Bison most likely weren't planning to use Sandy as a pitcher, even though he's 3-0 with a 0.92 earned-run average and 27 strikeouts in 22 innings for Post 2 this summer. He should be allowed to start throwing again in a month.

He's there to hit for the Bison, and he's done plenty of hitting this summer. To go along with his .527 average, which will most likely put him in the Post 2 record books, he's got a .562 on-base percentage, 11 doubles, four triples, one homer and 40 RBIs. He's only struck out twice this summer in 129 at bats.

"The most noticeable from this year to last year is his strength," Rustad said. "The kid works harder than anybody, whether it's a practice or the weight room. I want to say a year ago he was 165 pounds, now he's 180. At Shanley, he's pound for pound the strongest kid in the school. I'd say he's been way more selective than I'd seen him, so now he's a little more patient, but he's not chasing those ones that are off the plate. Now he's just more disciplined."

That started with dad, Tim, who had a .400 career batting average for Post 2 from 1988 to 1989 and helped the 1989 Post 2 team advance to the American Legion World Series.

"My dad told me to be more disciplined at the plate," Sandy said. "I knew I had the talent, but I just swung at some crappy pitches. I just got older and got more experience. I have a lot of confidence in my hands. Pitchers won't be able to jam me because my quick hands."