BOURBON – She’s so fast, you might just miss her.
Taytum Hargrave has made an impact at the high school level as a five-tool player. She is an above-average fielder and has a cannon for an arm. The junior is an on-base machine and the speed, oh the speed, Hargrave has the wheels to make a mountain out of a molehill (as one opposing coach called it last year in trying to get her out).
If you just look at straight numbers for Hargrave, she is a fantasy league first-round pick. Advance warning to Hoosier North Athletic Conference coaches, these could keep you up at night. Hargrave had a slash line as a sophomore of .574/.604/.792/1.396 (average/on-base/slugging/on-base plus slugging), had more triples (7) than doubles (5), was 16 of 17 in stolen base attempts and built all those numbers from the lead-off position.
Hargrave scored at least one run in 14 of Triton’s final 16 games (46 runs total, which led the conference), and enters 2017 with a 16-game hitting streak.
That is the definition of a table setter.
“I’m more focused this year on getting the job done,” Hargrave said, who hit .413 as a freshman with 38 runs scored. “Trying to increase my batting average, stealing more bases…” When noted she hit .574 last year, “I just have to work harder. That’s still four outs out of 10. If I have teammates on base, I need to move them around.”
Hargrave, who is a rare breed at Triton as just a one-sport athlete, uses her high school offseason to play travel ball for the NWI Sox, where she is one of five players that have declared to play softball at the collegiate level. Hargrave has given a verbal commitment to play at Ohio University.
Being able to move the ball around the diamond as a lead-off hitter is appetizing to college scouts, but so is her defense. The ability for Trojan head coach Steve McBride to position Hargrave anywhere in the outfield is frustrating to opposing coaches and hitters. Such was evident at the regional last year, where Triton and South Central again locked horns. As the Satellite sluggers came marching to the plate, McBride would move Hargrave around the outfield, and in several cases, guessed right as Hargrave came up with play after play. Either without moving or on the run, saving runs in what did eventually become a big 11-2 loss, it was very clear Hargrave was the dark knight.
Her huge throwing arm, which often goes unnoticed because most coaches now know she has it, is an added weapon.
“I’ve been hearing for a couple years now, ‘Don’t hit it to her, she’s gonna catch it. Or, don’t run on her, she can throw,’” Hargrave said. “McBride will put me where he thinks they might hit it. I’ve worked very hard on my arm strength, working in the weight room. I think my defense is just as important as what I do at the plate.”
Hargrave is part of a Triton program that has come a long way in 10 years. After some very lean years in the mid 2000s, Triton has become one of the annual powerhouses in local Class 1-A ball, and isn’t afraid to play bigger programs. Triton went 3-4 combined against 4-A and 3-A schools in 2016 and won its fourth straight sectional championship. The Trojans were 16-12 last year, going 7-3 in its final 10 games. The regional has been a problem, however, for Triton as it’s just 1-3 in games and two of those are to South Central, which is lined up again for a potential regional showdown.
“Honestly, I don’t know why South Central has our number,” Hargrave said with a smile. “We lost to them my freshman year then last year they killed us. We’ve gotten to the regional, and for whatever reason the past couple years we make mistakes we don’t normally make. I think we’ve learned a lot from that, and hopefully we can turn things around this year if we see them again.”
Triton has the punch coming back to make another run in the HNAC and 1-A tournaments. Courtney Jennings and Nicole Sechrist again join Hargrave as a strong junior anchor. Sechrist led the team with six homers and drove in 30 runs, Jennings with a team-leading nine doubles and 31 RBIs. Jennings also was the workhorse in the circle, throwing 83 percent of the team’s innings with a 1.82 ERA and 111 strikeouts.
Triton opens its season April 3 at Rochester.