As a junior in 2011, Elkhart’s Cam Reeves was great.
In 2012, his final year on a high school baseball diamond, Reeves managed to get even better, fulfilling dreams along the way.
The Elkhart captain went an amazing 13-0 on the mound for the Elks, leading the team to the state tournament for the first time in 20 years.
He also batted .457 with 38 RBI for the Elks on the year.
For all of his accomplishments in 2012, Reeves has been named the 2012 Dogwood Circle baseball Player of the Year.
So, what changed to mark the improvements for Reeves from 2011 to 2012? It was all mental.
“I was more mentally prepared to take on the big games,” he said. “I had to focus a little more and didn’t try to be the overpowering pitcher. Being able to actually be a pitcher, go through the situations and execute.”
Reeves and his teammates needed that mental attitude, as they were pushed to the brink on a number of occasions during their playoff run.
But, no matter how many win-or-go-home games they faced, the Elks continued to push through and, as the season went on, continued to grow as a club.
“It was really exciting to see how much we had changed, how our attitudes changed in the beginning. We felt more confident in ourselves as we went along,” Reeves said. “The fact that we could come out of any situation and work hard...the fact that we could come from behind. We had so many wins where things weren’t going well and we won.”
That included the state semifinal, where the Elks were down to their final out before tying the game and sending it to extra innings.
That game went on until the 13th inning, where the Elks ultimately fell to Jarrell, the eventual state champion.
But still, Reeves said the team learned something about itself that night.
“It’s pretty exciting to see what we did and how far we came,” he said. “Even that last game we lost, but to just see how long that game went. For people to know we didn’t go out and just quit trying.”
Reeves wasn’t only a pitcher for Elkhart but also a star centerfielder, a spot where he earned first team all-state honors.
In that state semifinal, Reeves was lifted in the seventh and had to play the remainder of the game in the field.
Every time that happened, he said his mindset was simple: Do for the new pitcher what the new pitcher had done for him.
“I just had to take my mind off the mound and be prepared and be ready for the play I may have to make behind another pitcher,” he said. “Back them up the way they backed me up.”
His baseball career isn’t over, Reeves hopes. He’s going to take a year off before trying out for some collegiate teams in the spring.
Those collegiate teams have already expressed interest, and he was close to signing with Tarleton State before deciding to take a hiatus.
He said collegiate baseball is and has always been the dream.
“It was really an awesome feeling for me because me and my dad have been working hard,” he said of being offered the chance to play in college. “I wasn’t some hard 95 mph pitcher as a right hander. It just shows that you don’t have to be some overpowering kid to get noticed.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jake Nash, Cayuga
A lot of players adjusting to a new position might see a drop-off in other parts of their game.
Not Cayuga’s Jake Nash.
Despite a move to catcher — a position he was relatively unfamiliar with — Nash had one of the best seasons of his career in 2012.
The Vernon College-commit batted an area-best .615 on the year for the regional semifinalist Wildcats.
He drove in 41 runs, knocked 15 doubles and stole 16 bases en route to sharing the District 19-A MVP with teammate Jimmy Johnson.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Levi Smith, Elkhart
Another baseball season come-and-gone, another stellar year for Elkhart’s backstop Levi Smith.
Despite catching 258.2 innings over the year for the Elks, Smith never allowed a past ball. None.
The Stephen F. Austin-commit also gunned down 19-of-51 potential base stealers and anchored the Elkhart lineup offensively.
Smith hit .392 for the Elks, while leading the team in home runs (5), RBI (58) and slugging percentage (.667).
PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Jimmy Johnson, Cayuga
Much like last season, the Cayuga baseball team rode the arm of Jimmy Johnson to another strong campaign.
The soon-to-be roommate of Nash at Vernon College, Johnson was 12-2 with a 1.66 ERA in his 55 innings.
In those 55 innings, Johnson struck out 107. He also hit .567 with seven home runs and 46 RBI for the Wildcats.
But the highlight of Johnson’s year may have come in a loss, when he battled for the Wildcats in the regional semifinals against Douglass despite a foot injury.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Payton Wallace, Cayuga
A lot of sophomores are merely happy to have made a varsity squad. For Cayuga’s Payton Wallace, he traveled all over it.
The sophomore played four different positions for the Wildcats during the 2012 season, excelling all along the way.
Wallace hit .413, scored 29 runs and stole 15 bases on the year. He also committed only seven errors despite seeing time at third base, second base, short stop and left field.
COACH OF THE YEAR
John Adair, Elkhart
It’d been 20 years since the Elkhart baseball team made a trip to the state tournament. The coach of that team? John Adair.
Two decades later, Adair and his Elks made the return trip after a strong season that saw them play inside the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association’s top-10 all season long.
Despite facing multiple do-or-die scenarios, the Elks never gave up, a testament as much to Adair’s handling of the club as anything.
He also did it with a relatively young team, which will return many of its key players for a repeat run in 2013.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
As a junior in 2011, Elkhart’s Cam Reeves was great.
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