By Andrew Johnson
Tawney, a senior third baseman who’s played at the varsity level for four years, will lead the Trojans into a pre-district game against Allendale on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Fruitport is currently 11-15 overall and 8-10 in conference play.
The two teams met in districts last spring, when Allendale defeated Fruitport 5-4 before eventually advancing to the state quarterfinals.
Tawney and the Trojans would love to get revenge and keep their season alive.
“I’m really excited,” Tawney said. “I’m ready to go because they knocked us out last year. It was a really close game and we had an opportunity, but came up short.”
Tawney and his teammates also had a chance to beat Allendale earlier this season, but fell in a doubleheader 13-3 and 6-5.
“The second game we had a 5-1 lead and kind of sat back,” said Fruitport Coach Nick Reed. “We didn’t step on their throats when we had chances to.”
If the Trojans win on Tuesday, they will advance to districts on Saturday. If they lose, their season will be over, and Tawney’s prep career will come to a close.
But he’ll have a lot to look back on after a great four years that started during team tryouts in his freshman season.
He’s been a steady contributor with his bat (.378 career batting average, with 137 hits in 362 at-bats), a defensive specialist, and an ironman on the roster who does not miss games.
“He’s been a huge part of our program,” Reed said. “He’s hasn’t missed any starts. You can pencil him in and he’s been a huge asset for us.
“We brought him up during tryouts his freshmen year because we needed another infielder, and he’s now got over 100 games under his belt.”
Tawney said he was surprised as a ninth-grader to get the call to the varsity.
“I was really thankful to have the opportunity,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it because I knew we had a lot of good players at the varsity level. But I’m really glad I was able to (play varsity early) because that experience has helped me grow as a player, and I might not have had the same experience on junior varsity.”
Part of that experience for Tawney was learning how to play third base, where he has only committed 15 errors in 280 chances.
“I had never played third much, but now that I’ve been there, I’m really comfortable,” said Tawney, a three-time All-Conference and All-District selection. “I usually played shortstop, and you get a little more time to track the ball there. At third you have to read and react.”
Tawney, who has 35 career doubles, is known more for contact hitting than his power at the plate.
“I get lots of singles and maybe some doubles,” he said. “I’ve tried to focus more on that. My sophomore year I wasn’t very confident at the plate. I got into a little slump and it ruined my season because I got down.”
There’s certainly been no slump this season for Tawney, who has been hitting at a very hot .410 clip.
“I’ve stuck to what I’ve done and known throughout high school,” he said. “Now I’m always confident and know my abilities.”
While his glove and bat definitely stand out, Reed says Tawney’s leadership will be an equal part of his high school baseball legacy.
“Our program is tight, so he hangs with a lot of the guys,” Reed said. “He’s usually a guy that they want to be around and hang out with. He shows younger guys how to progress. He’s not late, never complains, and always works hard.”
Tawney credits some of the older teammates he had during his first two years on varsity.
“I didn’t really have to be a vocal leader or lead by example the first two years,” he said. “But this year and last year I had to take over that role. They left a big hole because they were pretty vocal and good leaders.
“I kind of felt like it was on me to do that, because I had been on varsity since freshmen year. I kind of had to step up and do my job by helping them get better.”
Tawny is hopeful that his leadership will help the Trojans cap off their season with a district title.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Tawney said. “We’ve always come up short in close games and I’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into getting there, and I know my teammates have as well.”