By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Cameron Salvaggio wasn’t lacking for confidence when he stepped up to the plate for the first time. The 6-foot-1, 225 pound infielder for Team Texas knew going into the home run derby he had a slight advantage over many of his competitors.
That may have been proven when the Magnolia High product took home the home run derby title as he beat out 13 other contestants from around the country.
“It feels really good,” Salvaggio said. “It makes me feel really confident coming into the tournament knowing who I’m going against. It makes me feel, without sounding cocky, like I’m one of the strongest hitters here.”
The 5th Annual Heartland Classic tipped-off its festivities Monday with the opening ceremonies and home run derby at Oklahoma’s L. Dale Mitchell Park .
Players representing teams from Arkansas, Maryland, Ohio, Colorado, Georgia and Oklahoma competed for the derby title.
The past three years, the derby had been held on high schools fields and the players were able to put up big numbers. But with it being held on a mammoth D-I college field, even some of the best high school baseball players had issues getting the ball over the fence. The park dimensions are 335 feel down the lines to 411 in centerfield.
“It’s big,” Georgia’s Grant Colton said. “It’s real big. It’s bigger than some major league stadiums.”
Each contestant got 10 outs to hit as many home runs as possible. Arkansas was first and Brinson Williams clubbed two homers to get the party started.
But when Salvaggio stepped up to the plate for Texas, he set the tone for the rest of the tournament when he smashed a shot over the left center fence 385 yards away on the first pitch.
“It makes me think I can sit back on a curve ball, because now that’s all I’m going to get,” Salvaggio said. “And drive it out. Football help me a lot with weights and that’s what helped me hit the baseball farther.”
Salvaggio, a Stephen F. Austin commit, went on to hit four homers and took the early lead.
Oklahoma’s Hunter Southerland and Trent Robertson were shut out of the competition as neither were able to knock a ball out of the park.
Colton of Wesleyan School looked like he may make a run at Salvaggio when he posted two early homers. But the Samford commit couldn’t get anymore.
“This is my second time ever being in a home run derby,” Colton said. “The first time I never hit one out. My dad told me the key to this time was just take as many pitches as you can and if you get a good one, hit it as hard as you can. And I did. It was unreal. It was kind of a lift off my shoulders.”
While the derby is not a indicator of who will the Heartland Classic tournament title, Salvaggio said it does show Texas is serious about winning its fourth straight championship.
“It gives our team a confidence boost just knowing what we’ve got as a team,” Salvaggio said. “As a whole team, that’s how we play the game. We’ve got a big state so we have a lot to choose from. I know our talent and I know we can do a lot of good things with this talent on the team.”
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