All-Region baseball POY: Despite opponents' efforts, Hartley's value to Red Eddies increased as senior

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Senior Grant Hartley provided power in the Edward Little lineup this season. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Grant Hartley peruses Edward Little’s season statistics and pauses at the at-bat column, which shows him having as many as 15 or 20 fewer at-bats than some of his teammates during the 16-game season.

“It didn’t seem like I had so many fewer at-bats,” the senior said.

Hartley then recalls his final game in an Edward Little uniform, a shutout loss to Mt. Ararat in the Class A North playoffs, which leads him to conclude the numbers don’t lie.

“I didn’t see a strike all game,” he said.

An imposing presence in the middle of EL’s lineup, Hartley commanded respect from opposing pitchers. And as a pitcher himself, he gained a greater appreciation of why they pitched him the way they did, during his senior season. 

The Sun Journal’s All-Region baseball player of the year for 2018, Hartley sparked the Red Eddies’ 12-game season-starting winning streak with a home run and went the distance on the mound in a 5-1 win over Hampden. His presence at the plate and on the mound throughout the season made the Eddies surprise contenders in Class A North.

An all-conference quarterback bound for the University of Maine as a football walk-on, Hartley had a little rust to shake off of his pitching arm in the spring so he could help fill the void on a pitching staff gutted by graduation. 

“I hadn’t pitched since my freshman year, so basically my job was to go out there and throw strikes,” he said. “I thought even in the games I lost, I kept my team in it.”

Thanks in part to the development of an unexpectedly effective curve ball, he finished 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA, teaming with junior Ethan Brown to give EL a formidable front of the rotation. 

Coach Dave Jordan said even though Hartley lacked varsity mound experience, having a three-year varsity starter to steady the young staff was vital.

“He gave us two real good outings right off the bat against Hampden and Lewiston, and that helped our young guys get their feet under them and ready for that level of competition,” Jordan said. 

Opposing pitchers were ready for Hartley’s bat, since several of them had been taken deep by him in 2017.

Going deep in the count, Hartley quickly concluded, might mean missing an opportunity. 

“I had to hit earlier in the count and jump on the first strike I saw,” he said.

When he saw that strike, Hartley hit a team-leading .461 (18-for-39). But he had the patience to wait for that strike, knowing it may never come, and with a team-high 17 walks (three intentional), he reached base at a .616 clip.

Hartley’s home run totals dropped noticeably as a result, from five to two. But he still posted a gaudy .743 slugging percentage.

“He took what the game gave him,” Jordan said. “If he got a pitch he could hit, he put a pretty good swing on it. If he didn’t, he wasn’t going to get himself out. But I don’t think he saw anything thigh-high to belly-high this year.”

KVAC coaches told their pitchers not to let Hartley beat them all season, then voted him the conference player of the year after the season, recognition of the impact he had despite the measures they took to lessen that impact.

Senior Grant Hartley provided power in the Edward Little lineup this season. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Grant Hartley

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