GREENFIELD — There are few things Greenfield-Central’s Drey Jameson can’t do. Investing in self-doubt, now that’s one thing he won’t ever do.
Rather face failure then restrict his own potential, Jameson feeds his swagger from negativity and especially outside chatter.
“I’m a big believer in proving people wrong who doubt me,” the Cougars’ ace explained. “Every time I play, I want to show them what I can do.”
No more so than this season, a span of three months the Ball State recruit used to not only quiet his critics but make a statement while flashing his patented smirk from 60 feet, 6 inches.
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“A lot of people might think it’s cocky, but it’s not. He’s just confident. He’s knows he’s good, and when he went out to pitch, he was going to show people,” Greenfield-Central head coach Robbie Miller said. “I know it’s frustrating for opponents, but when you look out there at him, he always had that grin on his face. It said, ‘you think you’re going to hit me? I don’t think so.’ He dominated.”
From start to finish, the 6-foot, 165-pound two-way player packed the stat sheet, leading the county with 112 strikeouts, six wins in 10 starts, 30 runs scored and by crushing seven home runs.
His two no-hitters unfolded the first time he toed the rubber this spring against Lawrence North on April Fool’s Day and in his last game during the Decatur Central Regional semifinal against Class 4A state champion Cathedral this month.
“When he went to the mound, I always knew I was going to get the absolute best effort from him no question,” Miller said. “It was just fun because when he was on the mound, really, the only thing I ever had to worry about was his pitch count.”
Named the unanimous 2017 Hancock County Player of the Year, as voted upon by the coaches and Daily Reporter sports staff, Jameson’s only concern these days is keeping track of his snowballing accolades.
Not that he’s keeping track, much like his statistics.
“Truthfully, I didn’t even know I won the Prep Baseball Report (Indiana) Player of the Year. It just kind of popped up on my Twitter,” Jameson remarked on being named Indiana’s top player. “I actually got a call from my mom (Salina) about it because she saw it on Facebook. I had no clue. That was a big surprise and accomplishment.”
When trying to recall his strikeout total from last year, and this current season or where he ranked among the state’s leaders, Jameson struggled again.
Winning was his priority. Nothing else mattered.
“Honestly, the goal for me was to change the culture. That was my biggest hope,” he said. “I wanted to start changing the culture for Greenfield-Central High School baseball. I think we set the tone for that this year.”
Jameson led the charge as Greenfield-Central went from a 10-18 record in 2016 to 18-11 and sectional champions for the first time since 2013.
Once fixated on following in his hero’s footsteps, former Greenfield-Central 2006 All-State pitcher Kyle Gibson, who is playing professionally for the Minnesota Twins, Jameson carved out his own place in Cougars’ history in his final campaign.
His journey began in the Greenfield Youth Baseball Association circuit and continued under the tutelage of youth coach Carl Graham through Cal Ripkin and Babe Ruth ball.
The youngest of three brothers, Jameson learned perseverance through sibling rivalries. Never winning in anything against his elders Dylan, 24, or Dustin, 26, Jameson found his motivation.
“I hate losing. I have a drive to be the best at anything I do,” he said. “I think that’s where the confidence comes from.”
His mechanics and hardball I.Q. was a progression. A late starter in the travel ball scene, Jameson first joined the Indiana Bulls as an incoming freshman in high school. He didn’t break into the elite level of summer baseball until after his sophomore year, but his talent was undeniable despite limited exposure initially.
He caught the eye of the scouts quickly, and committed to Ball State as a junior after hitting .395 with 18 RBIs, 27 runs scored and a state-leading nine home runs. On the mound, he finished 2016 with a 2.65 ERA, a 2-4 record and 82 strikeouts in nine appearances.
After training with local baseball instructor and Chicago White Sox scout Mike Shirley and Justin Wechsler on his hitting and pitching, he rapidly dwarfed those numbers.
“This year compared to last year, he became more of a pitcher. Last year, he was just throwing and didn’t know where it was going. But this year, he trusted himself and his teammates,” Miller said. “He stepped up his maturity, and he listened. When the coaches told him to do something, he followed it, and the others guys saw that.”
Few batters caught enough of his low-90s fastball or sharp-breaking ball to make contact.
Jameson neutralized hitters with a .127 batting average against. The right-hander posted five shutouts and pitched six complete games. He registered eight double-digit strikeout performances, including a season-high 15 against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Yorktown on April 21 in a 4-3 win.
“Thing is, when he was pitching well, he was hitting the ball pretty well, too,” Miller remarked. “And early in the year, he struggled at the plate.”
Opening the season 3-for-11, Jameson wrestled with an 0-for-5 slump, though he only struck out nine times in 99 at-bats this season. The slow start curtailed his hopes at touching 20 home runs, but it corrected his focus.
“All I was shooting for was home runs to see how many I could get. But I just calmed down and went to play and started getting on base more,” Jameson said. “After I got that rhythm down, then I could start building power on my hits. That’s when the home runs started coming. It was a process.”
Jameson went hitless five times the rest of the season, but drove in a career-best 22 runs with 12 extra base hits.
His final home run remains his most memorable, though, a leadoff shot in the first inning over the fence at Bill Stoudt Field during the Pendleton Heights Sectional championship against New Castle on May 29.
“He told me in the sectional championship after we scored the second run (before we won 2-1). He said, ‘coach, we got this.’ He knew he wasn’t going to let them score again,” Miller said. “It’s just the confidence he has.”
Jameson struck out 12 and allowed four hits and one earned run to earn the win and secure Miller’s first sectional title. But he saved his best for undefeated Cathedral at regional.
“Against Cathedral, I told coach Miller, you get us one run, we’ll win this game,” Jameson said. “He said, ‘no, we need three.’ I said, ‘no, we need one.’ When I got on third base with a triple (in the fifth), I said, ‘if I get in, we win.’ Unfortunately, I didn’t.”
Touching 94 mph a handful of times in a pitcher’s duel against against Cathedral’s Nick Eaton, an Indiana University recruit, Jameson struck out 14 and didn’t allow a hit through seven scoreless innings. He was lifted due to pitch count rules as he reach 120, while Greenfield-Central lost the game 1-0 in eight innings.
“Honestly, if we win that game, I think we go all the way to state,” Jameson said. “I think Spencer (Hert) would have got to the job done against Roncalli (in the regional finals), and we could have made a huge run. I would have pitched the rest of the games from there on out, and I’m pretty confident in myself.”
He intends to carry the same approach in the Mid-American Conference as an outfielder and pitcher for Ball State head coach Rich Maloney, who Jameson believes will push him onto his next goal — Major League Baseball.
“I got off the phone with coach Maloney a few days ago and his expectation of me coming in as a freshman is as a leader,” said Jameson, who was unanimous All-HHC selection. “I’m willing to accept that challenge. I don’t like stuff to be easy. I want a challenge.”
An Indiana All-Star nod and becoming the program’s first Indiana Mr. Baseball isn’t out of the question either. Fourth in the state in strikeouts, seventh in ERA at 0.65 and hitting a career-best .404 has him in the conversation.
“Absolutely, I think he’s Mr. Baseball. Not many guys have the pitching and still batted over .400. He did a lot for us, and by far I think he’s Mr. Baseball,” Miller said. “After the Cathedral game, Kyle’s dad (Harold) said I’ve never seen a high school pitching performance like I saw today.”