All Takahiro Yamada needed was a healthy season to show what he could do on the baseball field.
After missing nearly all of his junior year with a torn meniscus, Yamada was back on the field for Columbus East his senior season. He will cap his high school career this weekend when he plays in the annual North/South High School Baseball All-Star Series in Whiting.
“It was awesome,” Yamada said of being selected. “It’s a great opportunity to meet great people and great players. I was really excited when I found out.”
Hovering around the .500 mark most of the season, Yamada finished with a .449 batting average. The second baseman set the school’s single-season doubles record with 14, led the Olympians with 20 runs scored and added 18 RBIs.
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But while East went 18-8-1 as a team, it fell one win short of its season-long goal — winning its first sectional title since 1999.
“I came back from injury and had fun playing with my teammates,” Yamada said. “It was fun, but we didn’t finish the way we wanted as a team.”
Yamada, who moved with his family from Japan when he was in middle school, started about half the games at second base for the Olympians his freshman year.
His sophomore year, he was a full-time starter, seeing action at second, shortstop and pitcher. He batted .338 with four doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in helping East to a 19-7 record and its first Hoosier Hills Conference title in 13 years.
After tearing his meniscus last year, Yamada tried to play as designated hitter for the first three games of the regular season, but the knee got worse, and he shut it down. This year, he came back with a vengeance.
“My freshman year, I didn’t do very well,” Yamada said. “My sophomore year, I came out and helped East defensively and offensively. The next year, I got hurt, and my senior year I hit pretty well. It wasn’t as well as I was planning to do, but it was good.”
Good enough to be selected for the North-South series; Yamada is the second East player in as many years to be selected, following Will Anderson last season.
Columbus North’s Collin Lollar and Brice McDaniel also were selected to play in the North-South series but had to pass on the opportunity. McDaniel recently had ankle surgery, and Lollar will be attending his sister’s wedding reception.
“It’s really hard to get on that team,” East coach Jon Gratz said. “So many players get left off, it’s such an honor to get selected, to be in that group.”
The North and South will play a doubleheader Saturday, with the first game beginning at 4 p.m. at Whiting’s Oil City Stadium. The finale will be at noon Sunday.
Yamada, who is playing for the Indiana Blue Jays this summer, is excited to play in the All-Star series.
“I just want to try to have fun and make new friends,” Yamada said. “It’s the last time wearing the (East) uniform.”
What: 2016 North/South High School Baseball All-Star Series
When: 4 p.m. Saturday (doubleheader) and noon Sunday (single game)
Where: Oil City Stadium, 1700 119th st., Whiting
Who: The state’s top recently-graduated seniors, including Columbus East’s Takahiro Yamada