Gavin Hawk emerged from a tough competition to become the DeSales baseball team's starting catcher last season, and a productive summer with the Columbus Cobras helped put him on the map when it came to college recruiting.
It gave the senior a clearer picture of where he needed to improve his game, and despite a broken right ankle that kept him in a walking boot for two months, Hawk gained the attention of Muskingum coaches during an unsigned senior showcase last winter and committed to the Muskies on Feb. 9.
Still, Hawk was dismayed not to have a senior season in which he and Stallions coach Tom Neubert felt he was going to be a primary contributor.
DeSales had eyed its fourth consecutive CCL championship and first Division II district title since 2017 before the season was canceled April 20 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"I think I've just caught so many innings that I just have a lot of experience," Hawk said. "I may not be the quickest guy, but I think I am a really hard-nosed player. I can almost guarantee I'm going to block every ball and I take a lot of pride in that. I have a pretty good bat, too, and that usually helps me stay in the lineup."
Hawk batted .306 as a junior with 22 hits and 17 RBI. He began last season splitting time behind the plate with 2019 graduate Aaron Kauser and occasionally played third base and was a designated hitter.
DeSales went 17-11 overall and 6-2 in the league, tying Hartley and Watterson for the league title before losing to the Hawks 8-6 in a district semifinal.
Hawk built on his strong season with the Stallions by batting .350 with 41 RBI and nine doubles for the Cobras, throwing out four would-be base stealers.
"I put a real focus on getting my arm strength up and making my feet quicker," Hawk said. "That was a big deal for my recruiting. That was one of the lesser parts of my game and I wanted to get that back up."
Hawk played on the freshman team and junior varsity as a sophomore but dressed varsity during the postseason.
"I was excited to see what he'd be able to do for us production-wise (this year)," Neubert said. "We don't have a lot of freshmen or sophomores who play varsity, but his junior year was a big step forward. We moved Aaron over to first base eventually and Gavin caught the majority of games. It's nice having two varsity catchers on the team, that's for sure.
"Defense is his best asset. He does a nice job managing the pitchers and calling a good game. Everything he can do with the bat is a bonus on top of that. His work ethic is fantastic and he made great improvements in the weight room and hitting-wise."
Hawk is particularly proud of striking out only five times as a junior.
"You don't help your team by striking out. I want to put the ball in play and see what happens," Hawk said. "(Avoiding strikeouts) is something I've worked a lot on in my approach. I don't take striking out well. I take it to heart and I take pride in my swing. I think I have a job to do and my job is not to strike out. My job is to put the ball in play and drive runs in."
Hawk was DeSales' only senior this spring to sign to play baseball in college.
"I don't push kids to be leaders. I don't choose captains or do anything like that," Neubert said.
"I think leaders emerge on their own, but that's what happens with boys. They get older, they get more mature and with it comes their confidence. When you get a confident teenager, the sky is the limit."