News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

July 2, 2014

Tribune-Star Spring Sports Athletes of the Year: Hard-working sluggers

Marshall’s Thompson, TH North’s Collett are hitting specialists

TERRE HAUTE — It’s not a challenge to figure out one of the things the two players chosen as the Tribune-Star’s Athletes of the Year for high school spring sports have in common.

Both Cheyenne Thompson of Marshall and T.J. Collett of Terre Haute North make the ballparks they play in look way too small.

Coach Meghan Arthur won’t go all the way out on the limb to say that Thompson is the best softball player Marshall has ever had, but calling the shortstop the Lions’ best-ever longball hitter is simple mathematics: the previous Marshall season record was five homers, the old career record was seven homers, and Thompson hit 10 homers as a sophomore and 12 during her recently completed junior season. Her career total is currently 24.

Collett, probably the first high school All-America player ever chosen from the Wabash Valley, has played just two baseball seasons at North so far but is more than halfway to what is believed to be Indiana’s state career record of 51 homers. The slugging catcher had nine homers as a freshman, 17 this past spring.

Collett’s rate of home run improvement isn’t likely to continue, but through no fault of his own. If there’s an Indiana career record for intentional walks, he’s likely to threaten — or shatter — that mark too.

“He’s a tremendous talent and he had a great year,” said Shawn Turner, Collett’s coach the past two years at North. “The numbers speak for themselves, but a huge part of that was that he had the maturity not to get himself in bad situations when [opponents] weren’t pitching to him.

“He’s always been pretty level-headed,” Turner added, “and he put himself in positions to help our team. He was a cornerstone of our team [that reached the Class 4A state championship game].”

Marshall didn’t get quite that far in Illinois Class 2A softball postseason play, but it took eventual state runner-up Teutopolis to sideline the Lions in the championship game of the Casey Regional.

“I think we had a really good season,” Thompson said. “A lot of people were expecting us not to be so successful, but a lot of the younger girls stepped up.”

The slugging shortstop might have been one reason for that, her coach suggested.

“She’s a good leader overall, and she helps out the younger players really well,” Arthur said.

Leadership by example is also one of Thompson’s strengths.

“I see her all the time out hitting under the lights with her dad,” Arthur said, “and we’ll see her doing her schoolwork late at night on the bus [coming back from road games].”

“My dad [Dane Thompson] and I are always at the field,” Thompson confirmed, “and I do a lot of tee work in the yard. Anytime I have free time, I always have a bat in my hand or a glove in my hand.”

Hard work is another thing the two sluggers have in common, indicated Collett, who is not exactly unfamiliar with Union Hospital’s Center for Fitness and Performance.

“During the season I just try to maintain strength with about two workouts per week,” he told the Tribune-Star, “and in the offseason it’s usually four [weight training] workouts [plus other days for other exercises]. I get a lot of extra hitting — 200 to 300 balls a day, six or seven days a week — and I work on my catching.”

Yet another thing the two players have in common is that they don’t spend much time at home during the summer. Thompson was contacted earlier this week on her way to a softball tournament in Colorado, while Collett spoke to the Tribune-Star between tournament trips to Nashville and Atlanta. Thompson has a couple of college offers already, while Collett has given a verbal commitment to play for Kentucky.

Collett was a third-team selection on Baseball America’s All-America team that was released recently, one of only two sophomores to be named, and Turner said, “A lot of the guys above him didn’t have any numbers close to what he did.”

What are some of the numbers for the two players?

Thompson, in 78 official at-bats, hit .564 with 12 doubles, the 12 homers and 31 RBI. Her on-base percentage was  .637, her slugging percentage 1.179.

Collett had 84 official at-bats with a .536 batting average, 12 doubles, two triples, the 17 homers and 51 RBI. His on-base percentage was .690, his slugging percentage 1.333.

“This is really an honor,” Collett said when he learned of the Tribune-Star’s selection. “I’ve known a bunch of athletes who have been named [athletes of the year for their season], and I hope my success makes me work hard to become better than I am now.

“This past season gives me hope, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come,” he added. “The hard work will pay off, hopefully.”

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