CEDAR RAPIDS — Trey Leonard started the varsity season last week.
His time with Cedar Rapids Washington comes to an end Thursday, forcing the Warriors to replace his production that included a 5-for-5 performance with five RBIs and four runs in the opener.
Leonard will forego the rest of his junior baseball season and continue to play this summer with the Rawlings Hitters, a travel team from Racine, Wis. Leonard, a University of Louisville commit, is listed on the Hitters Navy roster for the Class of 2017.
The roster includes players who have committed to Division-I programs like Oklahoma State, Auburn, Wichita State and Michigan. University of Iowa recruit Zion Pettigrew is listed on the team.
“It will be a great opportunity, because it will be the best against the best,” Leonard said. “It will really help me know what I can do and what I can bring, and help me get noticed more. See what I can do and see if Louisville is actually going to happen.”
Leonard garnered attention last year, playing for a travel team that competed in Cedar Rapids. The coach encouraged him to compete for a club team and try to improve his chances to take the field in college.
“The coach liked what I had to offer and he said you should probably play summer ball so I can get better and have a better chance to play at Louisville,” Leonard said. “We decided to play and go that route and play travel team baseball.”
Leonard will play in various states, including bordering states Tennessee and Georgia over the next two months. The Warriors would prefer him, covering center field and leading off for them.
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“I wish we could have him all year,” Washington Coach Scott Brune said. “He’s going to go try his luck at high-level travel ball and I wish the best to him.”
Leonard hit .423 with a .500 on-base percentage before his final game Thursday against Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Leonard led Washington in runs (12), hits (11), home runs (1) and stolen bases (6) and tied for the team lead with two doubles through eight games. He was third with seven RBIs.
“He’s just versatile,” Brune said. “He can do it all. He can hit, he can run, he can throw and he’s a tough out all the time, even with two strikes. He’s got a good head for the game.”
Brune said Leonard has earned everything he has received, dedicating countless hours in the batting cage in the off-season. His patience at the plate has been an improvement from a year ago.
“I used to lunge a little bit,” Leonard said. “Sitting back and making sure I get the pitch that I want has helped a lot and seeing a lot of pitches that I know and expect what’s coming.
“I think my arm has gotten a little better as well.”
The chance to play for the exclusive program and face top competition is a little bittersweet for Leonard. He was focused on building a strong bond with his high school teammates in the short time here.
“I’m going to miss these guys a lot,” Leonard said after the Bob Vrbicek Metro Tournament. “I’m going to miss these seniors. I want to get as close as I can to these seniors before I leave.”
Washington (3-5) will carry on, facing Jefferson again Friday night. A committee of Warriors will have to take his place. Washington has developed the depth, giving them a chance to prevent a drastic drop in statistics.
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“We finally have numbers in the dugout, a lot of kids that want to play and that are more than capable of filling in,” Brune said. “Hopefully, they can put up the production he does. It will be sorely missed. I think we have guys who can step in and help out.”
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