Senior Kyle Rosica helped the Notre Dame baseball team to an 8-0 start to the season. His coach, Joe Drulis, called Rosica “one of the best defensive outfielders I’ve coached.” (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

As often happens in high school baseball, a guy who’s smart in the classroom does better on the field by not using his brain.

Kyle Rosica is a good example.

The Robbinsville resident has a 94.5 grade score out of 100 at Notre Dame and is a member of the National Honor Society. He will pursue a degree in biomedical engineering at The College of New Jersey next year and is planning on a career in engineering.

And yet, the thinking that gets him good grades, sort of backfired in the batter’s box.

Now in his third year as a starter for the Irish, Rosica hit .227 as a sophomore and .234 last year. After blasting a walk-off homer against West Windsor-Plainsboro South at Arm & Hammer Park to put Notre Dame at 8-0 this year, he was hitting .600 with a team-leading 11 RBI.

“I’ve just been taking a more relaxed approach at the plate,” Rosica said. “I’m mostly just trying to think smooth up there and not think about what the pitcher’s going to throw, but just try to hit it and react. Before I would get up there and over-think and not trust myself as much as I do this year.”

His actual mechanics have barely been altered.

“I wouldn’t say I changed much in my stance, it was just keeping my back elbow up,” Rosica said. “I was dropping a little prior to the pitch. But mostly my mindset is what changed rather than the actual mechanics. Just trust myself while I’m up there.”

Coach Joe Drulis has trusted Rosica ever since arrived. Rosica played on the freshman team in ninth grade and made the jump to varsity starter a year later.

“I liked his swing,” Drulis said. “He had a good swing on the baseball. And I liked his baseball IQ. We have a lot of good players and if they’re on the freshman team it does not mean as sophomores they will be on the JV team. If they are ready to take that second big step past JV, then they play varsity. Kyle took that step.”

And while Rosica’s batting average wasn’t tearing up the Colonial Valley Conference during those first two seasons, he was still reaching base as he had 11 walks last year and six as a sophomore. He had a combined 16 hits and 15 runs scored those two seasons, and had a .466 on-base percentage last year. This year his OBP is over .600.

“He does get on base,” Drulis said. “He puts the ball in play. They may be errors but he does get on base because he hits the ball so hard and he walks a lot. He’s got a great eye at the plate. He gets on base for us, he scores runs and he makes us successful.”

Although he is not thinking as much, Rosica still knows what pitches to lay off.

“I like to think I’m disciplined at the plate,” he said. “I don’t like to swing at a lot of pitches outside the zone.”

And while his offense has been a plus this year, Rosica’s glove is of equal value in left field. An infielder all his life, Rosica played third base during his sophomore season before being moved last year.

“Last year we were missing that piece in left field of great defensive work,” Drulis said. “We put Kyle out there and he made us a lot better. He just reads the ball really well. He doesn’t give up on hits, doesn’t give up on foul balls. He has an excellent arm. In our (state) semifinal game against Red Bank Catholic last year, the ball was hit over his head, he tracked it, he ran, he laid out and caught it at a big time in a game we won 4-2. He’s one of the best defensive outfielders I’ve coached in my 19 years at Notre Dame.”

Rosica, who played in the Robbinsville Little League and with various travel programs, was happy to hear about Drulis’ compliment.

“It means a lot to hear that,” he said. “Coach Drulis is great, he’s been coaching here a long time and I respect his opinion.”

Rosica made the transition look easy, but it wasn’t. He was constantly putting in extra work to try and understand the position.

“At practice, I just worked as hard as I could to make the reads,” he said. “I would always work on my throws home, throws to the cut; just making sure I got the regular fundamentals down. I would say reading the ball off the bat is the hardest part, rather than just making the play. But just tracking the ball is what you have to practice the most. That just comes with seeing the ball off the bat multiple times.”

Unlike many players, who get bored in the outfield after experiencing the action of the infield, Rosica has welcomed the change.

“It’s just something about when the ball comes out to you, that’s all your area and you have the responsibility to make the play,” he said. “And when you’re out there throwing the ball home on sac fly balls or maybe they’re testing your arm and sending a guy from second on a single, that’s always fun.”

There is always the danger of things dragging when nothing is hit to the outfield, but Rosica knows how to battle boredom.

“Luckily one of my good friends, Jake Kmiec, is in centerfield so we can always make something happen out there when we’re not getting too much action,” Rosica said. “We’ll have a little chit chat. But once the pitcher goes into his motion, it’s time to focus.”

As good as he is with the glove, Rosica’s true love is with the bat. He will miss it as he is not playing baseball in college.

“I enjoy hitting and the hitter-pitcher’s duel,” he said. “When you get up there, it’s all eyes on you and it’s up to you to help your team out while you’re up there; either getting that hit, or helping your team get that lead run by moving him over. That’s really my favorite part of the game.”