NEW PALESTINE — Keegan Watson’s numbers don’t lie. In fact, they speak as one.

The batting average, the on-base percentage, the extra-base hits. They all tell the same story: Keegan Watson is the best hitter in Hancock County.

The New Palestine sophomore didn’t say that. He might think it. There is no doubt he wants it to be true.

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As a freshman, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound slugger led the area in hitting (.491) and finished in the top 10 in doubles, triples and home runs despite playing about 10 fewer games than his county brethren.

Heading into Year 2 of his varsity career, the fiercely competitive Watson wanted more. The outfielder/first-baseman decided collecting a hit in nearly half of his at-bats was not quite good enough and set his sights on .500. As of Monday, he’s hitting .536.

Watson’s on-base percentage also is a county-best .639. His extra-base hits are at a county-leading 11. He paces the area’s hitters in doubles (eight), runs scored (23) and owns a share of the lead in triples (two). He already has notched a pair of walk-off hits this season, including Friday’s against Hoosier Heritage Conference leader Yorktown, and he has reached base in his past 26 consecutive games.

When told of his elite numbers, Watson said he keeps an eye on them but doesn’t let them affect his approach. Despite outpacing his goal, he is unsatisfied with his current results.

“I could improve on everything,” Watson said. “You can never be too good at anything.”

It bears repeating: Keegan Watson is the best hitter in the county.

And that comes with challenges.

In the Dragons’ season-opening doubleheader against HHC rival Delta, Watson felt the effects of his fearsome reputation.

During the second game, he approached the plate in critical situations in both the fourth and seventh innings. On each occasion, the Tigers elected to intentionally walk Watson, rather than risking the wrath of his bat.

On his way to first base after the second free pass, Watson, frustrated, snapped his bat onto the ground.

Lyons, also the Dragons’ third-base coach, was none too pleased with Watson’s small display and addressed the situation after the game.

The fourth-year coach explained to Watson that as one of the area’s best and most formidable batsmen, the sophomore would have to learn to accept these gestures with grace and take them as signs of respect.

“I showed my butt a bit there, and he got on me for that,” Watson said. “It was an important at-bat (in the game), and it was frustrating not to be able to do more. But I just had to learn to take it for what is. It’s always a good thing a team with good pitchers doesn’t want to throw to you.”

Lyons said Watson has taken what the coach has said to heart. The sophomore has not repeated the opening-day act despite being presented with frequent opportunities this year.

“When you saw that, that was early,” Lyons said of his 16-year-old phenom. “What kids are in the first game of the year versus what they are in game 16 and 17 is much different. Yeah, I talked to him. It was a growing experience, especially for a sophomore. You have to fine-tune the kids. They are like racecars. You have make small adjustments here and there as the season wears on.”

These are the problems of a young star in the making.

The county’s best hitter undoubtedly aspired to stardom. And his ambition reaches well beyond county lines.

Watson, a year-round ballplayer who recently joined the elite travel team Indiana Bulls, wants to become the best hitter in the state and hopes to be rewarded with a scholarship to NCAA powerhouses Vanderbilt University or Louisiana State University.

Those are the schools he dreams of playing for, and according to Lyons, if Watson continues down the path he’s on, those dreams may very well become a reality.

“There’s potential for him to be one of the better players to come out of New Pal in a long time,” Lyons said.

By the numbers

Statistical leaders for Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon, New Palestine baseball teams. Stats are those most recently submitted by coaches.

OFFENSE 

HITTING

Player, school;Games;AB;Hits;Avg.

Keegan Watson, NP;17;56;30;.536

Cole Fout, EH;13;38;17;.447

Addison True, EH;12;31;13;.419

Tom Barton, EH;13;40;16;.400

Brandon Reid, EH;13;24;9;.375

Devin Denny, EH;13;41;15;.366

Jason Hall-Manley, NP;17;54;19;.352

Brendan Roberts, NP;17;42;14;.333

Drey Jameson, GC;17;58;19;.328

Brandon Turner, MV;13;37;12;.324

Christian Smith, MV;16;48;15;.312

Seth Adams, GC;17;55;17;.309

Tyler Woodcock, NP;17;42;13;.310

Dallas Pribble, GC;17;46;14;.309

Evan Hickman, NP;17;50;15;.300

HOME RUNS

Player, school;G;HR

Cole Fout, EH;13;7

Slater Rush, GC;17;3

Seth Adams, GC;17;2

Zach Spears, MV;15;2

Brendan Roberts, NP;17;2

Jason Hall-Manley, NP;17;2

Evan Hickman, NP;17;2

Zach Lovell, NP;14;2

DOUBLES

Player, school;G;2B

Keegan Watson, NP;17;8

Christian Smith, MV;16;6

Drey Jameson, GC;17;6

Seth Adams, GC;17;6

Wyatt Vestal, MV;15;5

Evan Hickman, NP;17;5

Zach Spears, MV;15;4

Slater Rush, GC;17;4

TRIPLES

Player, school;G;3B

Keegan Watson, NP;17;2

Andy Edwards, NP;17;2

RUNS BATTED IN

Player, school;G;RBI

Evan Hickman, NP;17;21

Jason Hall-Manley, NP;17;20

Slater Rush, GC;17;19

Cole Fout, EH;13;18

Keegan Watson, NP;17;15

Seth Adams, GC; 17;15

Christian Smith, MV;16;14

Tom Barton, EH;13;12

Cody Chandler, NP;16;11

Brendan Roberts, NP;17;10

Austin Clutinger, EH;13;10

RUNS SCORED

Player, school;G;R

Keegan Watson, NP;17;23

Brendan Roberts, NP;17;18

Drey Jameson, GC;17;17

Jason Hall-Manley, NP;17;16

Devin Denny, EH;13;13

Dallas Pribble, GG;17;13

Noah Powell, MV;16;12

Cole Fout, EH;13;12

Austin Lacy, EH;13;12

David Johnson, EH;12;12

Wes McBride, NP;16;12

Addison True, EH;12;11

Slater Rush, GC; 17;11

Ryan Beck, MV;16;10

STOLEN BASES

Player, school;G;SB

Austin Lacy, EH;13;10

Devin Denny, EH;13;8

Noah Powell, MV;16;8

Drey Jameson, GC;17;6

Addison True, EH;12;6

Levi Majority, EH;10;5

Dallas Pribble, GC;17;5

David Johnson, EH;12;5

Dwight Duzan, EH;11;5

Ryan Beck, MV;16;4

Garek Ferguson, EH;5;4

Keegan Watson, NP;17;4

Brendan Roberts, NP;17;3

Slater Rush, GC;17;3

PITCHING

WINS

Player, school;IP;W-L

Zach Spears, MV;29.0;4-1

Austin Clutinger, EH;20.2;3-0

Hogan Fulkerson, NP;20;3-0

Kennedy Parker, MV;20.2;2-1

Andy Edwards, NP;27;2-2

Tom Barton, EH;23;2-2

Devon Wagoner, EH;19;2-2

Seth Adams, GC;29.2;2-3

ERA (Minimum 10 innings pitched)

Player, school;IP;ER;ERA

Devon Wagoner, EH;19;3;1.11

Slater Rush, GC;10;3;2.10

Seth Adams, GC;29.2;10;2.40

Tom Barton, EH;23;8;2.43

Andy Edwards, NP;27;10;2.59

Hogan Fulkerson, NP;20;8;2.80

Zach Lovell, NP;20;8;2.80

Zach Spears, MV;29.0;13;3.14

Patrick Hopkins, NP;13.2;8;4.10

Cody Chandler, NP;14.1;9;4.40

STRIKEOUTS

Player, school;IP;BB;K

Zach Spears, MV;29.0;18;51

Drey Jameson, GC;19.3;20;28

Zach Lovell, NP;20;15;27

Kennedy Parker, MV;20.2;7;24

Andy Edwards, NP;27;12;22

Tom Barton, EH;23;10;21

Austin Clutinger, EH;20.2;11;20

Hogan Fulkerson, NP;20;6;17

Devon Wagoner, EH;19;8;17