FORSYTH — Tre Corley had a pretty good idea that a walk-off win was on the horizon for the Maroa-Forsyth baseball team.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Corley, Maroa's bruising bat in the middle of the order, started filling up the five-gallon water jug in anticipation of the game-winning hit. Sure enough, during an April 11 game against Virden North Mac, Dalton Torbert delivered a walk-off single.
Before Maroa coach Sean Martin could piece anything together, Corley burst out of the dugout carrying the bucket — quite the sight for a a 6-foot, 265-pound first baseman with long, curly locks of hair and a grizzly beard.
Full speed ahead.
In the heat of the moment, Corley lost grip of the cooler when he tried to splash water on Torbert and ended up launching the entire bucket at the catcher, which, as Martin and Corley recalled, thankfully missed.
Six days later against LeRoy, Corley stepped up to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning and roped a walk-off single of his own.
That's Corley in a nutshell: A Paul Bunyan-esque bopper for the Trojans (11-2) who is equal parts dominating in the middle of the order and fun enough to almost injure his teammate by hurling a full jug of water at him in celebration.
Corley ropes the ball to all fields — despite no home runs in Maroa's monster park. He's hitting .458 with 24 RBIs, seven doubles and is slugging .604 in 13 games for Maroa this season. He's committed to play baseball at Lindenwood University-Belleville next season, even though he's routinely asked by opposing players where he's playing football. He also has a renewed sense of confidence after an all-conference selection last year and yet another run to the Class 2A state championship game on the offensive line of the football team.
"I’m going up there and not thinking at all and just hitting the ball hard," Corley said. "They seem to find some holes sometimes."
Martin has been coaching for a long time. He's quite aware of when a ball sounds different off the bat. Over the winter when they were hitting in the cages, he started notice the ball hum off Corley's bat. At a camp in the offseason, Corley hit the ball with an exit velocity of 92 miles per hour off the tee.
Of course, Martin didn't need to know the exact number to know that Corley has the ability to barrel up most baseballs that are thrown in his direction.
“He doesn’t try to do too much at the plate," Martin said. "He just has a nice, short swing; but man, this is my 27th year of coaching and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid with that exit velocity off his bat.
“When we’re in the cage and I’m behind that L-screen, you can tell he’s hitting because that ball … I just cringe and think, ‘God, I hope this net never gives.’ His exit velo is just different from all the other kids and it’s different from what I’ve seen from a lot of kids. The ball really jumps off his bat."
Corley has been working on barreling the ball up his entire life. His target is the middle and the lower half of the ball for peak exit velocity and a perfect launch angle. Even at Maroa's field, which is 400 feet to deep center, he's parked one off the bottom of the wall and planted a few over the fence in batting practice.
That ability traces back to extra swings with his father.
“He worked with me forever," Corley said. "I remember me being a little kid in the back yard squaring the ball, whiffle balls and everything."
In the offseason, Corley hits with former major-leaguer and Maroa-Forsyth graduate Kevin Koslofski. When they first started hitting together, the exit velocity immediately stood out to Koslofski, who began joking with Corley that he could be their own version of Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber, without always looking the part of a baseball player.
“Well, he’s strong, so I have a keen eye for the obvious there," Koslofski said. "He’s got some bat speed, man. For as big as he is, he kind of fools you. You wouldn’t think he’d be as coordinated as he is. His hand-eye coordination is very good. His bat path is very good. His barrel gets in the zone early, it stays in the zone a long time and he can hit the ball to all fields."
Corley is best friends with Sean Martin's son, Ty. Sean has seen Corley grow up, but never wavered in his passion for baseball. All these years later and he's the force in the middle of a potent order that's complemented by a strong one-two punch in the pitching staff in Aaron Agee and Ian Benner.
Now the Trojans have won seven games in a row, thanks in large part to clutch hits from their burly first baseman with plenty of pop in the bat.
“When he steps to the plate, he’s all business," Sean Martin said. "It’s been fun to watch him grow into being one of the best players and hitters in this area because he’s really worked hard to get there. He’s kind of come in to his own."