Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
CENTRAL POINT — It's no secret, Ty Fox can be loud. So much so that even he admits his chatter can be borderline obnoxious, but he's working on it.
"I've been told that I'm loud for quite a few years now," he chuckles in a mix of embarrassment and pride. "It's probably gotten me into trouble more times than it's gone my way but I've been trying to keep it quiet and keep my emotions in check."
A great deal of it stems from his enthusiasm for the game he's playing, according to Crater baseball coach Jay Campbell, along with his competitive drive.
"He's always happy-go-lucky and has a lot of energy," says Campbell. "He really likes to be around the guys and having fun."
Whatever noise created by Fox around the dugout, however, can't compare to the noise he makes as one of the top all-around talents in Southern Oregon Hybrid baseball. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior is a lead pitcher for the Comets, steady third baseman when he's not on the mound and key component in a potent Crater hitting attack in the cleanup spot.
"He has a lot of God-given talent and physical tools," says Campbell. "He already has kind of the build of a college player with his size and strength so I think that helps but he's also got a lot of natural ability and talent that a lot of kids just don't have."
"I really don't think he's tapped into his full potential yet," adds the eighth-year head coach. "He's pretty well-rounded as far as abilities go. He's got the talent to go out on any given day and dominate a team on the mound, but he also is a very dangerous hitter."
Fox was a first-team all-SOH selection as a utility player last year for the Comets, but has been asked to take on more responsibility this season and is slowly finding his comfort level.
His win over South Medford on Tuesday, in which Fox tossed five shutout innings, improved his record to 4-2 thus far with a 1.33 ERA. In 36 innings pitched, the right-hander has 26 strikeouts and 15 walks. At the plate, he's batting .340 with 10 runs scored, six RBIs and seven walks entering Saturday's twin bill against the Panthers at Harry & David Field.
"Last year was a lot different because I was the young guy and didn't really have to do that much," says Fox. "I was batting sixth or seventh and this year I'm in the four hole and playing third a lot and pitching more. It's a little more pressure but I don't really worry about it."
As with the rest of his Crater teammates, Fox is busy striving to become a better player with each day in hopes that could lead the Comets to their first conference title at the largest classification since 1997. Crater was the 5A Southern Sky conference champ in 2007.
"We have a good team but we've got to get going," says Fox. "Coaches do all they can and give us all the tools and then it's up to us to start executing and getting the job done. Evan (Erskine) is a good leader on the team and we look to him for a lot of things with that but we've all just got to keep fighting."
The Comets opened the season by winning six of their first seven games but a 1-3 trip to California and some shaky play against Ashland and North Medford challenged their mettle. Crater has responded with a doubleheader sweep of the Black Tornado to take that best-of-three series and used a three-game winning streak to move to 12-6 overall and 3-1 in SOH play.
Key to that ability to overcome adversity is the overall depth of talent at Crater and some of that "loud" belief that the Comets can get the job done.
Junior Nolan Bastendorff (3-1) and sophomore Dylan Pearce (3-0) impressively struck out 18 and allowed only seven hits in last Saturday's doubleheader at North Medford.
As a team, Crater is batting .315 thanks to the efforts of Fox and juniors Paul Turner (.397, 14 RBIs, 13 runs), Tyler Aplin (.396, 10 RBIs, 16 runs) and Taylor Tibbets (.321, 10 RBIs, 10 runs) and seniors Anthony Martin (.382, 10 RBIs, nine runs) and Erskine (.370, 12 RBIs, seven runs).
"It's very special to be part of this group," says Fox. "I love all these guys to death and I've been playing with all of them since Little League. I'm really a lucky guy to have the team I have."
Fox has been playing football and baseball since he can remember and enjoys both equally. This past fall he split time at quarterback with senior Chase Mackey and completed 35 of 74 passes for 484 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. That same strong arm also gives him hope of a potential college scholarship in baseball as well, given his plus-fastball and combination of a hard slider and confident changeup.
"I've been told baseball is a better avenue for me to get a scholarship but I believe I'm a good enough athlete that I could also do that for football," says Fox, who holds a 3.2 grade-point average. "I guess it's all going to come down to whichever one gives me the best opportunity to go to college."
Right now, though, the concentration is solely on helping his team build toward a memorable finish in baseball.
"We've got some other seniors that have been there a bit longer than him and that he looks up to," says Campbell, "but he knows he's got a load to shoulder if we're going to get anywhere. We need him to be at the top of his game to be successful."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry