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Versatile Cox makes Francis Howell North tough to beat

Francis Howell North senior shortstop/pitcher Jeffrey Cox slaps a pitch toward left field during the Knights game against Troy Buchanan on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]

This is always the best time of year for Francis Howell North’s Jeffrey Cox.

In the spring, Cox is very much at home.

Whether he is playing the infield, pitching, or running the bases, Cox is on the field for the Knights getting hits, scoring runs, or getting outs to help his team win.

A three-year starter for Howell North, Cox a senior shortstop and pitcher is putting it all together and helping the the Knights win with regularity.

Cox has helped Knights get out to a solid start thanks to his contributions on the field and at the plate.

Heading into the second week of April, he is hitting .286 with a .474 on base percentage.

“I knew we were going to have a good team coming into the season,” Cox said. “I wasn’t really prepared for having any special type of season other than starting off a good season (this year).”

At the plate, Cox has been steady and using all parts of the field well as a lefthanded hitter.

Howell North coach Bobby Dunahue said that after a bit of a slow start, he has adjusted his stroke and is having more success of late at the plate by going to the opposite field with the ball on outside pitches against opposing pitchers.

“He’s been hitting in the three hole for us and early on he was trying to jack the ball and he’s a gap to gap guy and in our yard, it behooves him to hit balls hard to left center field,” Dunuhue said. “To his benefit, he stopped spinning off the ball (with his swing) and started staying on it, and started hitting a lot of balls really hard to left-center field.”

Being aggressive with the bat early in the count has also helped Cox as well. “My approach really is if I get a good first-pitch fastball early in the count, I’ll go after it,” Cox said. “I don’t like to go deep in the count because then that gives the pitcher more options to come at me with.”

On the basepaths, Cox has been a pain for opposing pitchers as he is fifth in the area in runs scored, and leads the Knights in runs scored.

“I like the catch the other team off-guard, so if they’re giving me an open base, I’ll take it but any extra base that will help our offense score more runs goes as a plus.”

Cox helps out the Howell North pitching staff as well.  As the number three pitcher in the rotation, he has been solid there as well with a 2.68 ERA.

Defensively, he is getting the job done at shortstop. Cox has the speed to get to plenty of balls to his left or right and the arm, to get the ball to first in plenty of time.

His development at short the past two seasons, has allowed him to bring stability to the middle of the Knights infield with more patience and confidence defensively.

“His sophomore year he was going 100 miles an hour all the time,” Dunuhue said. “Last year, he developed that real good internal clock to where he knew he had time to throw out runners on routine ground balls and that’s a credit to him buying into being more patient when balls are hit hard.”

Baseball has been an everyday part of Cox’s life since he was little. Cox’s grandfather William Cox introduced him to the game when he was younger by bringing him bat and ball sets on visits and that got Cox hooked on the game early in life.

“My dad (Jeffrey) and my grandpa were always really big baseball fans and when I was younger but my grandpa would be me like little baseball bats and balls at like Cardinals games,” Cox said. “I would also get them for like my birthdays and Christmas and whenever I would open them up, I would just start hitting baseballs around the house.”

Cox, just recently signed a letter of intent to play baseball at St. Louis Community College at Meramec next year.

Dunuhue said that Cox’s high baseball IQ and his versatility as a player, have allowed him to excel during his time at Howell North.

“Not only does he have plus speed, but he makes intelligent decisions and he’s very coachable,” Dunuhue said.

Cox is looking forward to playing at Meramec next year but before that he has a few goals he would like to achieve before his senior season ends.

“I would like to hit over .400 for the season, make first team all-state, and help the team go as far as possible in the playoffs,” Cox said.





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