When the Gig Harbor baseball team did conditioning drills early in the season this spring, one thing jumped out to longtime coach Pete Jansen right away: Third baseman Jordan Haworth would be 30, 40 feet ahead of everyone else.
“He’d tell me, ‘Oh, these are easy,’” Jansen said.
Maybe that’s because Haworth had regularly been taking 12-mile runs around Fox Island during the offseason. Running around the baseball field suddenly didn’t seem too challenging.
“I started doing it to get into better shape, and then it turned into a hobby,” Haworth said.
Haworth runs by himself, and enjoys the views of the water and the peaceful solitude it brings. But the running has also paid off on the baseball diamond in a big way for the Pacific Lutheran bound senior.
Haworth won the Class 3A South Sound Conference Most Valuable Player this spring, after posting a .453 batting average in league, with an .830 slugging percentage. He had 11 singles, eight doubles, three triples and two home runs in league play. Overall, on the season, he’s batting .415 with a .756 slugging percentage. He has 17 singles, eight doubles, seven triples and two home runs.
The stats that stand out the most: Seven triples and a slugging percentage hovering around .800. Seventeen of Haworth’s 34 hits this season have been extra-base hits.
“Running outside of practice helped me get more in shape,” Haworth said. “I’ve kind of gotten the speed back that I had when I was younger. I’m able to turn some of those singles into doubles, some of those doubles into triples. I’m just able to stretch it out.”
He also worked on his strength during the offseason.
“I got my body to where I feel like I can perform better,” he said.
The difference has been obvious to Jansen. While Haworth was a good player last year, he’s been even better this season.
“He’s been really serious about getting his body into shape,” Jansen said. “It’s certainly paid off. Last year, he was in pretty good shape. But I can tell the difference between last year and this year. He’s stronger. His muscles got really toned up.”
Jansen said Haworth’s bat speed is above average.
“The ball just jumps off his bat,” Jansen said. “He’s aggressive out there. He’s a competitor. … When he makes contact, he really squares the ball up. He’s got power. He uses the whole field when he hits and he’s extremely quick. If a ball gets into the gap, it’s a double for sure, and it might be a triple.”
For Haworth, much of his approach has been simplified to trying to stay relaxed.
“I’m just not trying to do too much,” Haworth said. “When I try to do more than I’m capable of, I don’t perform.”
Haworth felt he was popping the ball up too often last season. So he worked extensively on changing his swing, changing the placement of his hands from a flat position to a more straight-up position.
“I’m more on top of the ball this season,” Haworth said. “Once I got used to how the new swing felt, I’m hitting a lot more line drives.”
The hitting would be enough to keep him in any high school lineup in the state, but Haworth has been just as good defensively, manning the hot corner.
“He’s made numerous web gem plays,” Jansen said. “Not only does he react and catch the ball, he’s up on his feet immediately. He gets rid of it right away.”
Jansen recalled a game against Central Kitsap earlier this season. Haworth robbed the same batter of three hits in the game: The first, sprinting in on a near-perfect bunt, bare-handing the ball and throwing the batter out. The second, jumping out to snag a line drive that appeared to be going over his head. The third, laying out to his side to rob a ball that appeared to be going into the outfield for a base hit.
“He did that consistently,” Jansen said.
That defensive prowess, combined with his eye-popping offensive stats, earned Haworth the league’s MVP award. Now he’s hoping it will translate to a deep run through the Class 3A state tournament.
Gig Harbor (15-8) faces Kelso (15-8) in the regional round of the Class 3A state tournament on May 19 at Bannerwood in Bellevue. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. The winner will face the winner of Central Kitsap and O’Dea later that night, also at Bannerwood.