Caleb Fornshell cannot pinpoint what plagued him last year, but the Minot Vistas shortstop was not playing up to his potential.
That is hard to imagine after the high school season he had this spring and the way he is playing through the first four games of the American Legion season.
The senior led Minot High in batting average, on-base percentage and hits as the leadoff hitter. In three games with the Vistas, he's reached base in 10 of his 14 plate appearances. The early season run includes six walks, four singles, a sacrifice fly and four RBIs.
Minot Vistas shortstop Caleb Fornshell plays catch with a teammate during practice Tuesday at Corbett Field.
That sort of production simply was not there in 2012 and Fornshell slipped from leadoff to the bottom of the order.
"He kind of struggled offensively and defensively and I think he'd be the first one to tell you that," Vistas coach Todd Larson said, "so it was important for him to have a good spring and to carry that over to the summer.
"He just struggled. Got behind in counts early and just got down a little bit on himself. Sometimes that's hard to fight out of."
"Mostly, just confidence," Fornshell said. "Last year, I wasn't too confident. Nothing seemed to go my way and this year I've just been doing a lot better. When it's going good it's easy to play good."
A quick-charging, sure-handed shortstop, Fornshell needed to take a far more relaxed approach at the plate and the strategy has become routine since April. He was walked five times, hit three singles and connected on a sacrifice fly in Monday's doubleheader sweep of Wahpeton. The patience and understanding of what his team needs in various situations has been remarkable for a player who hasn't received much college interest.
"I like his approach as a leadoff hitter," Larson said. "He's patient. As you've noticed, he's not afraid to go deep in counts. He does what we're asking him to do. It helps our next hitters see what kind of pitches are being thrown, helps the guys in the dugout see more pitches, so he's not afraid to go deep."
Nearly a year removed from competing, 2012 MHS graduate Marcus Quist is benefiting from Fornshell's strong start. Quist, who expects to play with Minot State University next year, bats second and plays second base.
"He's up there having fun and that's all you gotta do," Quist said. "You just gotta be relaxed and have the right mindset and he's playing pretty well for us. It's nice having a runner on and it gives me more confidence to hit him around, so I think him leading off and me going behind him is a pretty good combination."
The pair have played next to each other in the field for three years and Quist is still impressed with the ground Fornshell covers.
"He can get to balls in holes that you didn't think anybody could get and he gets there and can make some double-play balls out of that and just gets things rolling in the field," Quist said.
Fornshell is the youngest of three brothers to play for the Vistas. The middle brother, Alex, plays for MSU and will be a senior next year.
Caleb hopes his defense-first mentality and newfound confidence at the plate will lead to a career at the next level.
"I've always kind of focused on defense first," he said. "Just gotta make sure you stay with your fundamentals. Make sure you stay down on the ball, come through it, don't let it eat you up."
The Vistas (3-1) are seeking their first state championship since 2010. Tuesday's doubleheader with East Grand Forks (Minn.) was canceled due to a scheduling conflict. Minot plays a doubleheader at 5 p.m. tonight at Grand Forks and returns home for a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against Devils Lake at Corbett Field.
The July 17 series scheduled to be played at East Grand Forks has been replaced with a doubleheader at Devils Lake. The Vistas are hoping to schedule another home series to replace the home series against East Grand Forks.