It was his glove that earned Jake Wright a starting position as a freshman, when Boone Grove won a sectional title. Three years later, it's his glove that has kept him there, helping the Wolves to another crown.
"I've always been pretty confident in my defense," Wright said. "Throughout my career, I've always been real fast and been able to get to a lot of balls. It's one of the main reasons I've started so many years. It's been my strong suit. I'm definitely better at fielding than hitting."
Back in eighth grade, Wright was moved from center field to shortstop for the Porter County Conference championship and became a fixture as a six on the lineup card. He's now known for making the spectacular look routine.
"First and foremost, he's a great athlete," Boone coach Rollie Thill said. "(He makes) plays that keep us in games."
While Wright has that knack, it hasn't always been a smooth ride. He's had his ups and downs, even this season, when his batting average dipped perilously close to the Mendoza line (.200). Over the last month, a hot streak boosted his average into the .300s.
"(As a freshman), we knew he was going to take some lumps," Thill said. "Sometimes, it was a struggle. We thought we were going to move him, but didn't. The key to him is his character. He takes a lot of tough things in stride. He keeps fighting and gets through it, where others would've curled up and gone away. He doesn't allow it to get him down. He's as good as it gets right now."
The freshman hothead who toted his strikeouts and errors back and forth has learned to let it go.
"I freaked out a lot," Wright said. "As I got older, I learned to settle down. It's just a game. I don't take it out on the field. I can't make my problem their problem. I have to worry about my defense and help the pitchers."
At the plate, Wright isn't as as flashy. His top statistics are hits by pitch, where he is the school career record-holder (32) and stolen bases, where he ranks among the all-time leaders.
"He gets the 1-for-2 with a walk, a hit by pitch, a steal," Thill said. "Those things add up. He can hit it in the alleys and run the bases."
Wright is part of a senior class that has played together since their Lakes of the Four Seasons T-Ball days. Every year, he was the first pick of coach Bryan Hill, who's now a Wolves assistant. Wright, Dean Hill, Jason Sawa and Cody Poynter have all been on varsity since ninth grade.
"It's definitely fun," Thill said. "It hurts a little more when they're gone than a one- or two-year guy, but it's nice to see how they've improved. At times, they're taken for granted."
When the group was 10, they won the Little League District 1 title, with Wright knocking in the tying run and scoring the winner in the eighth inning. Wright, who won't play baseball in college, is happy he could bookend his career with at least one more title.
"Last summer made me realize I was going to be done sooner or later. I may as well end it now and focus on college," Wright said. "I didn't want to look back on my career and regret anything. We're all real good friends. I'm definitely going to miss them a lot. It's sad to think about it being over, but it's good to go out with a bang."