Austin Tarver can handle his own on the baseball diamond. But he defers most of the credit to past coaches.
"I feel that I have made lots of progress over my years at Keys because of the coaches I have had the opportunity to work with, and the hard work I have put into my game," Tarver said. "For the last four years, I have also been on a college prospect team with (former Keys coach Mack) Chambers and that has really improved my game as well."
Under Chambers' guidance — and Beau Brannon's during his senior season — Tarver cashed in his high school performances for a collegiate opportunity at Seminole State College. Keys' senior shortstop recently signed his letter of intent to join the Trojans.
"It feels really good to sign with Seminole," Tarver said. " I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to play there under a really great coaching staff."
At Seminole State, Tarver will play for Lloyd Simmons, who is nearing his 30th year at the junior college program in Oklahoma. It was Seminole's current coaching staff and Chambers that helped Tarver settle on signing with Seminole State.
"Seminole's winning tradition is a strong motivator for me to want to play there," Tarver said. "I have worked with Coach Mack Chambers since my eighth grade year and he played for Seminole. That was another reason that influenced my decision to play there."
During his senior season, Tarver posted a batting average of .452 with an on-base percentage of .544. He drove in 25 runs, scored 37 times and swiped 17 bases. In the field, he sported a .928 fielding percentage.
"I know Austin is really excited about continuing his baseball career at Seminole, and I think it's an incredible opportunity for him," Keys coach Beau Brannon said. "I'm privileged to have had the opportunity to coach Austin, and it's a great feeling to see his hard work and dedication pay off.
"I wish him nothing but the best at the next level. His leadership and competitive nature will certainly be missed here at Keys."
And with Tarver spearheading the Cougars' charge in 2014, Keys went 21-10 before falling short against Sequoyah in a Class 3A district tournament.
"We have had some less than successful seasons at Keys, but despite that, we have tried to stick together as a team," said Tarver, who was also fielding interest from Allen County College, Redlands College and Carl Albert College. "It has definitely improved my ability to face adversity while being able to keep my head up, keep going and improve my game."
When Tarver arrives at Seminole State — situated 25 minutes southeast of Shawnee — he anticipates playing somewhere in the middle of the infield. From there, he hopes to just keep prolonging his baseball career.
"I plan to continue playing baseball as long as I can and go as far as I can," he said. " I will also pursue a degree related to sports medicine."