Cross steps up to the plate for Trinity

Published 12:02 am Friday, April 18, 2014

NATCHEZ — After a two-year hiatus from the sport, Trinity Saints catcher Caleb Cross once again fell in love with the game of baseball.

With football serving as his first-love, Cross put his bat away after his freshman season for the first time since playing tee ball, planning to focus on playing linebacker throughout his high school career.

The Trinity senior’s plan nearly came to fruition before new baseball and football head coach Zach Rogel persistently pursued Cross in hopes of him joining the baseball team this season.

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“I needed that one guy to step up and be open minded about the season, and he was that guy,” Rogel said. “He set the tone for the younger kids, and he set the tone for sports at this school under me. He’s a coach’s dream.”

Cross is thankful he didn’t let his senior season pass him by without baseball.

“I would have regretted it for the rest of my life,” Cross said.

Though he had to shake a little rust off of his swing in the early going, Cross became the most productive batter in the Saints’ lineup, leading the team with a .448 batting average.

Perhaps even more important for Rogel’s club, Cross became the starting catcher. Rogel was faced with a dilemma heading into the season. Cross and Stewart Mallory both could play the position, but Rogel did not want to alternate catchers. Because Stewart was the Saints’ No. 2 pitcher behind Quinton Logan, Rogel decided to keep Cross behind the plate.

“It wasn’t too hard getting readjusted,” Cross said. “I feel that baseball has always come easy for me,”

Following the season, Rogel met with other coaches from Tallulah Academy, Wilkinson County Christian Academy, Tensas Academy and Franklin Academy to discuss all-star selections. Rogel came into the meeting ready to fight for Cross.

Rogel said he explained to the other coaches how Cross played out of position, and that if Cross would have played second base or shortstop, Rogel would have put Cross up against any athlete in the district. He said the coaches agreed with his point and voted him to play for the South squad in the MAIS All-Star game May 21.

“We went 5-6 this year, and I truly believe we would have went 1-10 this year without Caleb (Cross),” Rogel said.

Cross was honored by the selection, but because of an already planned vacation with his parents, Ruffin and Monica Cross, Cross won’t be able to attend.

Still, Cross is appreciative of the way his high school career ended. With their backs against the wall, Trinity had to win a double-header against Tallulah to at least contend for a playoff spot. After Logan threw a no-hitter in an 11-1 win in the first game, Trinity fell behind 9-2 before coming back to win 10-9 in the second contest. Despite winning both games, Trinity missed the playoffs, but no one can take that night away from Cross and his teammates.

“I don’t think there could have been a better way to end my baseball career,” Cross said.

After Cross graduates from Trinity, he plans on studying automation and control at East Mississippi Community College.