The first time Ryan Kruszka saw Austen Hanna, the Satellites junior was on a basketball court, not a baseball diamond.
"I saw him move and I said, 'Please tell me this kid plays baseball,'" the new South Central coach said. "They said, 'Yes, he's a starting outfielder.' I couldn't wait to get my hands on him."
Come tryouts, Kruszka's first impression was validated to the point he wanted Hanna to switch positions.
"We had a lot of guys we had to replace. We needed a shortstop for when Brayden (Carpenter) pitches," Kruszka said. "I kept looking at (Hanna), saw his lateral speed, and wondered how this kid's not playing the infield. My outfield coach gave me a look. He didn't want to give him up."
The result was a split decision of sorts. Hanna plays shortstop when Carpenter and Adam Clindaniel pitch. Otherwise, he patrols center field.
"I couldn't ask for a better rotation for a 1A school," Kruszka said. "Austen's been amazing at shortstop. We're not just putting a guy there and hoping he doesn't screw up. He's a kid who flies under the radar. He leads by example, just works his butt off and always does the right thing."
For Hanna, it wasn't that big of a deal. He's played baseball since he was 5 and spent time at shortstop when he was younger. He already had an infield glove, which is noticeably smaller than an outfield mitt.
"It took a little bit to get used to again, but it's working out pretty good," Hanna said. "I was more useful in the outfield mostly because of my speed, but almost our whole infield graduated, so I knew we were going to have almost all new people. I worked a lot harder in the offseason, knowing I was going to have to step up. It's been fun."
Hanna's adjustment has been one of the keys in a surprising 7-2 start for South Central. The Satellites came into the season with plenty of questions, in addition to the new coach.
"I didn't know how we were going to be, but every practice, I saw us looking really good and it's carried over into the season," Hanna said. "(Kruszka)'s really energetic. He always gets us going. He keeps things new and fresh. Things are a lot more fun at practice. We've had a really good streak (four sectionals in a row) and hopefully we can continue it."
A steady presence defensively, Hanna is also a spark at the plate, where he bats leadoff. He's hitting around .400 and is near the top of S.C.'s statistics in on-base percentage.
"I can think of three times where he's led off with a single, we've bunted, and he's made it all the way to third, he's so fast," Kruszka said. "He's scored three times without even getting a hit."
Hanna has typically hit near the top of the order, so the catalyst's role, like the defensive switch, isn't foreign to him.
"Whatever I have to do, I'm always looking to start off the game by getting on base," Hanna said. "Whenever that run scores, everyone else seems more relaxed the rest of the game."