Junior Tanner Rachal worked for his starting spot on the Seabreeze baseball squad. Now, he's batting leadoff and boasts the team's highest on-base percentage.
BY MATT MENCARINI | SPORTS EDITOR
Tanner Rachal stood at third base and watched a fly ball drift into right field. He had a decision to make.
It was the fourth inning of a scoreless game and Rachal, the junior leadoff hitter for Seabreeze, was 90 feet from putting the Sandcrabs ahead.
“I was debating with myself whether to go or not,” he said. “But I committed and just ran as hard as I could.”
The play at the plate was close, and was a big factor in the teams' 11-inning win.
Earlier in fourth, in Rachal’s second plate appearance of the game, he got the first Seabreeze hit of the night. Then, he stole second, after head coach Anthony Campanella gave him the steal sign.
“As a coach, you have to feel confident in the guys you put out there,” Campanella said. “And I think what helps us is that when we put him in there, we know he’ll get it done.”
As a sophomore, Campanella brought Rachal up to varsity sparingly, but this season, on a team loaded with juniors, Rachal is leading the Sandcrabs in on-base percentage, hitting around .500 and has scored 10 runs (as of March 15).
“The kid worked really, really hard in the offseason to get where he is today,” Campanella said. “He played a bunch in the summer and played a bunch in the fall. He has definitely worked as hard as he can to be a major contributor to this team this season.”
Rachal has played the outfield and infield this season, and he may start to pitch soon, giving him a versatility Campanella calls valuable.
It was the summer league, Rachal said, and the added at-bats and games against quality opponents that has made all the difference.
David Tanguilig reached base with a single, in the fourth inning against Edgewater, advancing Rachal to third and loading the bases for Buddy Harbuck, who stepped into the box and hit a fly ball to right field.
The Edgewater fans, no more than 20 feet from Rachal, yelled warnings of the right fielder's arm strength. “He’s got a cannon!” one shouted.
Rachal debated, and made his choice. He took off for home and the throw beat him, but he was able to slide under the tag.
Rachal’s fourth inning, which included an infield single, a stolen base and a play at the plate — all close calls — proved to be crucial in a 3-2 Seabreeze win.
“That felt good,” he said. “You have to run your heart out. You never know what’s going to happen.”