Cleanup hitters in baseball rarely move up to the leadoff spot.
Center Grove senior center fielder Tye Thixton, who is capable of hitting for power and percentage, is an exception.
Trojans coach Keith Hatfield used Thixton at the No. 4 spot in his batting order to start the season but now has him at the top of the order.
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Thixton embraces the role.
“I like batting leadoff, personally,” said Thixton, who entering Tuesday’s home game against Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Carmel was 2 for 6 at the plate with three walks and three runs. “It kind of sets the tempo of the game.”
Hatfield penciled Thixton in as the Trojans’ No. 4 batter in the season-opener against Roncalli (a 4-2 win) and again two days later while facing Sullivan (a 3-2 loss).
A need for baserunners prompted Hatfield to switch Thixton to leadoff in time for the team’s first road game of the season — a 9-0 triumph at Lawrence Central.
Hatfield said he is looking for more consistency at the plate from Thixton, who hit .306 in 2015 while delivering 20 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
“Tye started every game as a junior, but at the plate was really streaky,” Hatfield said. “There were stretches where he would go 8 for 10, but there were times he would go 0 for 10.
“I don’t know if it was confidence as much as it was being comfortable.”
Thixton has filled a different role for Center Grove in each of his three varsity seasons.
Primarily as a pinch runner his sophomore season, Thixton played right field a year ago.
The graduation loss of starting center fielder Devon Hensley, a freshman batting leadoff at the University of Indianapolis, has allowed Thixton to move a few strides to the left.
“He is really, really good in the outfield,” Hatfield said of Thixton, who has verbally committed to play baseball at Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. “Devon may have had a step on him, but other than that they’re the same.
“A lot of our pitchers rely a lot on a good defense. I wouldn’t say they’re finesse, but they definitely rely on location.”
Center Grove will need Thixton’s bat and glove as it begins a stretch of four consecutive road games in seven days. The Trojans are at Carmel today, Greenwood on Friday, at Franklin Central on April 18 and and at North Central on April 19.
Thixton’s athletics career at Center Grove also includes three varsity letters in boys tennis.
Last fall, Thixton and senior doubles partner Ryan Stemle qualified for the IHSAA State Finals at Park Tudor High School. They lost in the first round to a team from Evansville Memorial, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Thixton, who is right-handed swinging both a racquet and bat, said playing tennis helps with footwork and hand-eye coordination.
Much as he enjoys tennis, he’s a baseball player first.
“I’m definitely a baseball player who plays tennis,” Thixton said. “I’ve been playing baseball for about 13 years and tennis for only six or seven. I’ve just kind of grown up playing baseball and have always loved the whole team atmosphere.
“This year we have a tight-knit group. It helps having team chemistry, for sure.”
THE THIXTON FILE
Name: Tye Thixton
Family: Parents, Jeff and Amy; brother, Trey, 15
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Money Ball”
Favorite athlete: Bryce Harper
Favorite team: Indiana Pacers