NEW PALESTINE — Nick Butcher’s name is nowhere to be found among the 2013 local baseball statistical leaders. A key defensive cog for New Palestine, robbing opponents of hits from his shortstop position always came easier to Butcher than collecting his own hits at the plate.
In this, his recently completed final season for the Dragons, Butcher finally found the self-assurance with the bat that he had with the glove, bumping his average a whopping 155 points, from .281 to .436, the fourth best mark in Hancock County. Combined with his usual defensive acumen, Butcher’s hot stick (and .550 on-base percentage) from the leadoff spot helped the club claim sectional and regional championships.
Connor Swain, New Palestine’s senior center fielder, joins Butcher – a lifelong friend and teammate – as The Daily Reporter 2014 Hancock County Co-Players of the Year.
“It’s just been more confidence every single year,” Swain said of his buddy. “He’s always had the talent, but he grew a lot, got stronger and stuff, and he just took off.”
For Swain, he’s forever been good with a bat, or racquet, in his hands. An accomplished tennis player for the Dragons, he was a full-time baseball starter as a sophomore. That season, he hit .402 as New Palestine claimed a regional title. This year, Swain hit .417 with a team-best 28 RBI as the Dragons (28-10) beat No. 2-ranked Lebanon and Edgewood to put another regional crown in the school’s trophy case.
Swain’s athletic reputation preceded him at the high school level.
“My son (Corey) and Connor played together, so I’ve known Connor since he was 8, 9 years old,” New Palestine head coach Shawn Lyons said. “His dad and I coached the travel team together and so I knew about Connor. And, yeah our eyes were lighting up a little bit.”
In the Dragons’ 6-4 regional semifinal win over Lebanon, Swain went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI to help chase Vanderbilt commit Reid Schaller from the Lebanon mound.
It was a typical Swain performance. But Swain, despite the natural ability, has never coasted.
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