By Mike Beas | Daily Journal
Center Grove’s assembly line of hits, better known as a batting order, must seem longer than a stretch of Kansas highway to opposing pitchers.
No break, glimmer of hope or even tiniest glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.
Smack dab in the middle is the player Trojans players affectionately refer to as “Gary Barrels.”
As baseball-themed nicknames go, junior right fielder Garrison Barile could have done worse.
Barile, who is verbally committed to play college baseball at Miami of Ohio, is certainly living up to the moniker. Entering Wednesday’s game at Carmel, Barile sported team-best numbers in batting average (.500), home runs (six) and runs batted in (30).
He’s the No. 5 hitter on coach Keith Hatfield’s lineup card, which is a little misleading.
Most years, Hatfield said, Barile would be the 3 or 4 hitter.
“In our lineup, this year our five hole is basically an extension of our cleanup hitter,” said Hatfield, who bats senior Owen Guilfoy ahead of Barile. “No question, Garrison is one of the strongest kids on the team. He’s really transformed his body.
“He was hitting the ball pretty far last year, but the missed hits that might have been outs, now those balls are carrying over.”
Barile added 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-2 frame in the offseason and now checks in at 195 pounds. He paid special attention to strengthening his quads and hamstrings in pursuit of newfound distance when connecting with his swing.
Five of Barile’s round-trippers this season came over a 13-day stretch in April, including two in a 9-6 victory over Jeffersonville and a tape-measure offering over the center field fence and off the parking lot beyond against Whiteland in the Johnson County tournament.
More recently, Barile’s blast in an 11-7 win at Brownsburg was something of a jaw-dropper, too.
Barile drove in at least one run in 16 of the Trojans’ first 21 games. Five times he’s produced three or more RBIs.
The junior’s elevated productivity wasn’t merely about getting stronger in the months following a sophomore season in which Barile hit .341, drew 16 walks and struck out a team-high 25 times.
Barile has already been walked 22 times this season and raised his on-base percentage from .462 to .667, evidence of his improved plate discipline.
“Honestly, I think it was just confidence and the mental approach to the game,” Barile said. “It’s more about looking at the positive parts of the game. You can’t think about the pitch before or the at-bat before. It’s definitely something that takes work.”
Barile played middle infield in his earlier playing days, moved to the outfield as a freshman and has loved every minute of it.
As is the case with each at-bat, Barile takes his time in right seriously.
“Generally, the baseballs that come out to me are not barreled. They’re normally flukes over the first baseman or second baseman,” Barile said. “I feel our pitching staff does a great job of pitching to left-handers.”
Miami was the first college program to offer a scholarship to Barile.
Former RedHawks catcher Danny Hayden is now in his seventh season as Miami’s coach, while former Butler assistant Bailey Montgomery, a native of Vincennes, is now the hitting coach.
Days and nights in Oxford, Ohio, are part of Barile’s promising future.
In the meantime, Center Grove’s postseason begins later this month, which means Gary Barrels and Co. are focused on the now.