Tanner Cantrell set a goal of batting .550 his junior season. It was a lofty expectation. Not only was it 79 points higher than his previous season, but it was also 13 points above the program record.

But it proved to be no problem.

Cantrell shattered his own expectations with a record-setting 2014 season for the Houston High School baseball team. The left-handed slugger batted a robust .591 to smash the HHS record and land among the top 30 single seasons in state history.

Cantrell was honored for his historic season with a spot on the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association all-state team. After honorable mention honors last season when he batted .471, Cantrell leapt to the first team as one of five infielders in Class 3.

Cantrell, who topped Caleb Smith’s previous single-season record of .537, led the HHS offense is nearly every offensive category. Along with his team-best batting average, he led the team in hits (39), doubles (12), home runs (4), RBIs (32), walks (10), on-base percentage (.649) and slugging (1.015). He struck out just two times in 66 at-bats.

“He had a tremendous season,” HHS coach Brent Hall said. “We don’t have a lot of kids that hit .500, let alone to almost hit .600.”

Cantrell’s success is no accident. Along with the high school season, he plays another 70 games during the summer with the Midwest Nationals.

His days off consist of sessions at the fitness center and track along with batting practice each morning and evening. With his father, Brian, throwing pitches, Cantrell takes around 200 swings twice a day.

“It’s all year long. He really does put in the time it takes to become the player he has become,” Hall said. “You don’t see many kids in any sport –– not just Houston, but anywhere –– that work that hard at it.”

When he steps in the batter’s box, Cantrell is looking to pound the first fastball he sees. He said his focus is hitting the ball from left-center to right-center with authority.

“I don’t believe in taking pitches or seeing pitches like most people do,” he said. “The first fastball I see, I’m going to hit it because you might not see another one in the at-bat.”

He didn’t miss many. Cantrell had at least one hit in 19 of the Tigers’ 20 games. He had multiple hits in 13 games and had three hits eight times.

“His aggressiveness is key to his success,” Hall said. “The thing that separates him from other kids is when he gets a good pitch, he takes a tremendous hack at it and he just doesn’t miss.”

A record-setting season behind him, Cantrell has set even higher expectations for his senior season. He wants to bat .650.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “I don’t feel like there is a pitcher that can beat me.”

FIRST TEAM

Pitchers

Matthew Tipton, Catholic

Taylor Thompson, Cuba

Coby Seiz, Holden

Joey Cooner, Warsaw

Infielders

Lane Duncan, Licking

Jeremy Eierman, Warsaw

Brayton Ballenger, Catholic

Eric Atwell, Catholic

Tanner Cantrell, Houston

Outfielders

Cory Hanger, S. Callaway

Cameron Williams, Cuba

Bryce Jefferson, Lutheran

Will Robertson, Fatima

DH/Utility

Tyler Ast, Catholic

Jay Kaufman, Forsyth

Ryan Bouse, Cuba

SECOND TEAM

Pitchers

Hunter Dame, Conway

Trey Hartman, B. Leblond

Gordon Arthuad, S. Callaway

C.J. Ashburn, Hallsville

Infielders

Layn Hurst, Forsyth

Tyler Thrasher, B. Leblond

Seth Brown, Palmyra

Lucas Swindle, Lutheran

Reid Kesel, Fatima

Outfielders

Baylie Jones, Conway

Palmer Campbell, NMCC

Hunter Hennier, Fatima

Andrew Meier, Dixon

DH/Utility

Graham Thomason, Lutheran

Tucker Mettlach, Sarcoxie

Gavin Brines, Diamond

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