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Power at the plate

Photo by Court Leve/Sun News ServiceTruckee High senior Jason Chapman takes a cut during practice on Monday. The middle infielder from Ukiah has put up huge numbers batting in the leadoff spot.
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Jason Chapman has swung a mean stick this season. His numbers confirm it.

The Truckee High baseball player ” formerly of Ukiah High ” capped the 31-game regular season at North Tahoe Saturday with a 4-for-6 performance, giving him 61 hits in 88 at-bats for a .693 average.

Hitting out of the leadoff spot all season, the senior raked 13 home runs, 13 doubles and six triples and had a slugging percentage of 1.397. He knocked in 39 runs and scored 55 while striking out seven times and walking 11.



“He just dominated with his bat,” said teammate Kevin Flynn. “He let his bat do the talking.”

In 16 games of league play, Chapman hit .595 and posted a 1.276 slugging percentage. He struck out twice and walked six times in 47 at-bats.



“You always expect him to be on base. He’s really that good,” said Jared Sahlberg, Truckee’s assistant coach. “He just stings the ball all the time. I don’t know where we’d be without him, to tell you the truth.”

With Chapman ” who also shone on the basketball court this year, averaging 22.3 points per game for greater Nevada’s third-highest scoring total ” the Wolverines (9-7) earned a fifth seed in postseason play, which they start this Friday and Saturday against No. 2-seeded Spring Creek.

Truckee head coach Mike Ellis attributes his team’s winning season in part to Chapman, who moved from his center field position to play second base and shortstop. Senior Ben Tonon plays center field.

The move made Chapman that much more comparable to his father Kelvin, a former major league second baseman who is now head softball coach at Mendocino College. And because Ellis retired jersey No. 3 in honor of Nevada’s single-season strikeout record holder and 2004 Truckee grad J.R. Murphy, Chapman traded in his old number in exchange for his father’s No. 11.

“He’s my foundation for baseball. He taught me everything I know,” Chapman said of his dad. “My mom and grandma say I’m a spitting image of him on the field.”

On the field, Chapman is no slouch, either, Ellis said. But it’s his offensive production that has been turning heads.

“He’s a pleasure to watch,” Ellis said. “At bat he really doesn’t have any weak points. He’s lights out.

“I knew he was good, but no one expected this power display.”

Coming off a junior season in which he made first-team all-league, batting .375 with one home run as Ukiah’s center fielder, Chapman even surprised himself.

“I did 10 times better than what I projected,” Chapman said of this season. “It was just one of those amazing years. I kept a positive attitude all year, and I think that’s what did it for me.”

His offensive production as a Wolverine has come from an unfamiliar slot in the batting order, as Chapman hit third for Ukiah. Suffice it to say, he likes his new role.

“I love it now,” he said of hitting leadoff. “It’s the only spot I want to bat now. I guess (the switch) was just a blessing. It made me more focused.”

Chapman said in addition to keeping his front shoulder more closed at the plate this season, he has become a more patient hitter. Ellis said he remembers only three times all season when Chapman swung at a first pitch, and each came after he had already seen a pitcher.

“He’s got the patience and the skills to let pitchers get ahead,” Ellis said. “He’s an aggressive player and he’s smart. He’s making the team work harder.”

With the right-hander often on base, and already in scoring position after extra base hits, Chapman also makes his teammates better. Take senior catcher Scott Decker, who has benefited from hitting No. 2 in the order behind Chapman.

“Probably the best way to put it is that it’s like hitting behind Barry Bonds,” Decker said. “He’s the best hitter in our league and one of the top hitters in 4A. He’s got the swing.

“He speaks with his bat.”

Jason Chapman has drawn attention from the Cincinnati Reds, which had a scout at Saturday’s game at North Tahoe, and the Los Angeles Angels, which had a scout at a game a couple weeks back. Chapman said the Reds also showed interest in him last season as a junior at Ukiah High.

Come June 7, major league draft day, Chapman will learn just how interested the clubs are. As of now, according to Truckee coach Mike Ellis, the right-hander is looking into playing next season at Santa Rosa Junior College or Sacramento City College, two highly competitive baseball schools. Chapman’s father Kelvin, who played pro baseball from 1979 to 1985 as a second baseman and third baseman in the Mets organization, got his start at Santa Rosa.

This summer Chapman plans to play in a competitive traveling league in Reno while working construction with his uncle Bruce Stewart, whom he lives with.


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