Good things usually happen when McGavock senior Jatavia Gray steps to the plate.
It’s been that way since she batted .483 as a freshman in 2018.
But this season, Gray isn’t just making contact with the ball. She’s sending them a long way too.
Gray leads the Lady Raiders (15-2) with nine home runs, including four just in the past week.
“I’m kind of feeling it,” she said. “If I see that it’s in (the zone) and I have the green light from my coach, I try to hit it as hard as I can.”
Gray’s power surge has come at the right time for McGavock, which defeated Hillsboro 12-1 for the District 12-AAA title on Thursday. The Lady Raiders have won eight straight games since a non-district loss to DCA on April 23.
“I think that she has a confidence factor,” McGavock coach Kelsey Cartwright said. “She has figured it out. She definitely makes the pitchers nervous… they know they have to be careful with her.”
Through her first three high school seasons, Gray hit just two home runs. The infielder still batted .461, but the power wasn’t there yet.
That changed this year when Cartwright pointed out an issue with Gray’s swing. Cartwright was a power hitter during her time as a player at Auburn and Lipscomb from 2010-13, totaling 31 career homers.
“I tend to not use my back arm when I swing,” Gray said. “But using it creates more power. Ever since (Cartwright) taught me how to do that, I’ve been having more power.”
Jatavia also takes tips from her hitting coach and father, Tez Gray. Between the help from him and Cartwright, Jatavia is hitting a career-best .600 with 28 runs and 37 RBIs through 17 games.
“It’s senior year – go big or go home,” Jatavia said. “I wanted to show out for my last year. That’s really what my goal is right now.”
She isn’t looking to crush the ball every time, though. Cartwright said Gray’s patient approach at the plate has played an important role in her success.
“She looks to drive the ball if they give her the opportunity, but the majority of the time, she’s not trying to force it,” Cartwright said. “She’s very, very disciplined in not trying to overstep her role. She tries to go in there every at-bat and find a good pitch to drive.”
Gray thought about playing college softball but has since decided she’d like to focus on training to be an IT technician. She will continue to play this summer with the Lady Dobbers, a travel team based out of Shelbyville.
That means the postseason is Gray’s last hurrah. The even-keel veteran is hoping her hot bat can help McGavock advance out of the Region 6-AAA tournament for the first time since 2005.
“As long as we’re up on our game and nothing is distracting us, we should be able to come out on top (in) most games,” Gray said. “We should be fine in regionals as well, I believe.”