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After 6-week absence, Chase Diggins already making an impact again

Teammates say junior 2nd baseman brings extra pop, steady presence to KU baseball lineup

4 min read
KU second baseman Chase Diggins rounds the bases after an early-season home run in a home win over Texas Southern at Hoglund Ballpark. [Kansas Athletics photo]

After six weeks out of the lineup because of a Grade 2 strain of his hamstring, KU infielder Chase Diggins returned to the Jayhawks’ lineup earlier this month and wasted no time getting his old form back.

During his first full game since injuring himself in a 13-3 win over UCF on March 22, the junior second baseman recorded two hits in three at-bats, with a double and a stolen base in KU’s Game 2 win in the series against Kansas State on May 4.

He followed that up by going 6 for his next 14 with 4 RBIs in his next four games, including a 3-for-4, 3-RBI effort in KU’s Game 2 win over Houston last weekend.

While there’s still some work to be done in the way of rhythm, timing and discipline, Diggins told R1S1 Sports that just being back out there delivered enough joy for him to be patient with the rest.

“I’m close to 100,” he said. “My body’s not quite up to that yet, but I think that’s just a grind that I’ve got to get through. It wasn’t like I was over-swinging or anything like that. I was just trying to hit the ball hard. At this point, even if the ball’s out of the strike zone, I’m probably hacking at it. I’m not seeing it well enough yet after being out so long.”

Sitting at 12-8 overall and 4-3 in Big 12 play when Diggins was injured, the Jayhawks went 14-8 during his absence and played themselves into contention for a spot in the postseason.

While difficult to not be a full-fledged part of that, Diggins said seeing his teammates battle and knowing that there would be something to play for when he returned helped keep him going during his absence.

“It was kind of a frustrating six weeks while I was out,” he admitted. “But, at the same time, the guys played really well when I was gone. So, it was encouraging to see that, just knowing that once I get back and am able to perform, we’ve got a pretty special team.”

KU's Chase Diggins (rear) slaps hands with teammate Sam Hunt after warming up at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri earlier this season. [Chance Parker photo]

Diggins, who is hitting .310 on the season with five doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs, encountered a lot of alone time while he was out. From extra strength and rehab sessions with trainers to quiet nights while the team was on the road and some solo recovery time after what little work he was able to do, he found new ways to support his team to help keep all of the solitude from being too much.

“It was quite a journey to get back,” he said. “I was actually kind of busy the whole time.”

On game nights, that meant transitioning from starting second baseman to dugout supporter.

“When the game comes, there’s not a lot you can do except get behind the boys and support them,” the native of Perth, Australia said.

One teammate in particular knew exactly what Diggins was going through because he had missed four weeks earlier in the season with a hamstring injury of his own.

“It was the same thing,” KU junior Ben Hartl told R1S1 Sports. “Grade 2 strain. Hamstring. We bonded over it a little bit.”

Hartl said he helped Diggins along his road to recovery, with little tips and information about what worked for him, what didn’t and how he kept a positive attitude and approach.

It was always about visualizing his return in the near future.

“A lot of it was the mental side of like, ‘Stay locked in, this isn’t a time to take off or nothing. You’re gonna come back and be right in the lineup when you’re back,’” Hartl recalled. “To have him back just adds another element to the offense and to the defense, it’s huge to have him back.”

Hartl is not the only Jayhawk who cheered Diggins’ return.

Senior John Nett, who leads the team with a .352 batting average and 8 stole bases, also said getting Diggins back into the mix was better for business.

“He’s a good clubhouse guy, too,” Nett said. “We’ve been missing him, for sure. Defensively and offensively. He’s just another steady presence.”

The Jayhawks (29-18 overall, 15-12 Big 12) are headed south this weekend for a three-game series at Texas to close out the regular season. They’ll stay down in the Lone Star State from there and head straight to Arlington for the Big 12 tournament, which gets under way next Tuesday at Globe Life Field.

Kansas will enter the final weekend in sixth place in the current Big 12 standings, two games behind UT in fourth place and two games clear of TCU, Kansas State and UCF behind them.

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