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Every so often, Bailey Watson is jokingly referred to as “Appendix” by teammates of his on the Whiteland Community High School baseball team.

Watson laughs it off, knowing the worst is behind him.

“I don’t have another appendix to rupture, so we should be good,” he said.

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An appendicitis before the third game of the 2016 season sidelined Watson, who has returned to coach Scott Sherry’s lineup determined to make up for lost time.

Credited with only 23 at-bats last season, Watson, who hits cleanup for the Warriors, has bounced back with a sizzling .520 average and leads the team in runs with eight.

Now 6-2 on the season, Whiteland is coming off winning its first Johnson County Tournament title in 40 years.

“We expected Bailey to be one of our main guys last year, so having him back is great,” Sherry said. “He’s a great kid who works hard and is a good teammate. I know the coaching staff and his teammates are happy for him.”

It was prior to a game at Perry Meridian on April 5, 2016, when Watson approached Sherry to tell him he wasn’t feeling well.

Watson had a fever of 103.7 degrees.

“The next day we went to the doctor and he told me I needed my appendix taken out,” said Watson, who would have the surgery performed the following day at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

“I was in the hospital for four days.”

Once home, Watson wasn’t able to consume food the way he had previously. His 6-foot-1 frame, once a sturdy 195 pounds, eventually carried only 170.

His hiatus from baseball lasted 17 days. Watson returned in time for a single plate appearance in a 14-4 loss to Greenwood; he would collect only two base hits the entire season en route to a .087 average.

What a difference a year makes.

Watson went 4-for-5 at the plate in Monday’s 9-8 road victory against Mid-State Conference foe Plainfield. He delivered two hits apiece in wins against Griffith and Center Grove earlier this season.

Now wearing jersey No. 32 after being No. 6 on the Warriors’ roster last spring, the senior is back in his comfort zone.

“I like that number (32) because when I was little, I had a really good football season wearing it,” Watson said. “It stuck with me throughout any sport that I played.”

Whiteland returns to action Monday with a game at New Palestine. The Warriors host Greenwood on Tuesday and play at the Woodmen’s facility on Wednesday.

Sherry is glad to have Watson playing a far more significant role this time around.

“Bailey worked hard this year to get to where he is, and just hit the ground running,” Sherry said. “It’s good seeing him swing the bat and being the leader we expected.”

THE WATSON FILE

THE WATSON FILE

Name: Bailey Watson

Age: 17

Born: Franklin

Family: Parents, Jason and Christina; brothers, Addison, 16, and Jamison, 13; sister, Kinley, 12

Favorite TV show: “Blue Mountain State”

Favorite food: Chili

Favorite movie: “The Wizard”

Favorite athlete: Mike Trout

Favorite team: Indiana University men’s basketball

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.