Southwest Baptist University was obviously drawn to Tanner Cantrell for his baseball abilities. But head coach Chris Martin said another attribute also stood out.
“The first thing that we noticed when talking with Tanner and talking about Tanner with other people is how they talked highly of his family and their character,” Martin said. “We are adding someone to our program who is a hard worker, who has a great family and is someone who we think will have those intangibles that mean a lot to us.”
Cantrell, a senior third baseman, will continue his baseball career beyond Houston High School after signing Saturday with SBU. He inked the paperwork inside Hiett Gymnasium alongside his parents, Brian and Stacy, high school coaches, summer coach and girlfriend.
A two-time all-stater, Cantrell established a school record by batting .591 last season. The mark is among the top 30 in Missouri history. He is a four-year starter with the Tigers.
Martin believes Cantrell, who he said will play first base in college, will continue his prowess at the plate at SBU. Cantrell is batting a team-best .469 through 12 games of the 2015 season with a .614 on-base percentage.
“He has the potential to be a high level hitter at our level,” Martin said. “I think he will hit for power but at the same time, I think his size and ability give him the chance to really develop as a special hitter here.”
Cantrell joins SBU during one of its strongest stretches in program history. Under Martin, the Bearcats won 70 games the past three years to tie the mark for most wins in a three-year period in school history. The string of three straight 20-win seasons marks only the second time SBU has accomplished the feat.
Martin’s teams have also excelled academically. His teams have accumulated 79 academic awards and all 23 of his seniors have graduated or will graduate this year.
“Tanner will have the opportunity to get a degree at a great institution and develop his baseball skills in the best Division II conference in the country,” Martin said. “We can’t wait to get him here and get to work. We are really excited to add Tanner to our program.”