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Jemmett helping La Jolla baseball

Trent Jemmett always knew he could perform at the varsity level - it just took a while for him to prove it to himself. Now that he has, the only people happier than he is about it are his La Jolla High School coaches and teammates.

Jemmett, a senior shortstop for the Vikings, has developed into one of La Jolla’s most consistent players, as well as the leader of a club that could compete for the Western League title this year. Vikings coach Gary Frank calls Jemmett one of the best players to come through the program in the last couple decades, and Jemmett is now a legitimate college prospect.

“He is the foundation of our team,” Frank said. “He’s really solid defensively - he’s not the flashiest shortstop you’ve ever seen, but he’s just real steady. And he’s a great contact hitter. He’s the kind of guy we can rely on.”

Jemmett has been among La Jolla’s steadiest players for three years now, but his tenure on the varsity club began tenuously. Called up during the second half of the league season during his freshman year, Jemmett was overwhelmed at first. He said he felt he was over his head competing against players who were sometimes four years older.

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His nerves took over, and it affected his performance.

“I guess I just didn’t really play that well, and that kind of compounded the problem (of nervousness),” Jemmett said. “I just got nervous and was trying to prove to everybody that I belonged there.”

The experience paid off, though, and with time to let things sink in during the summer, fall and winter, Jemmett was prepared to become a significant contributor to La Jolla’s varsity team once his sophomore season arrived.

As a freshman, Jemmett batted just .111 in six games. But as a sophomore, he hit .306 with 13 RBIs, and last season he led the Knights with a .433 average and was second on the club with 27 RBIs. This season, entering the week of March 31, he owned a .350 average and had driven in 14 runs for a Bishop’s team that was 7-3-1.

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“I’m as comfortable now as I possibly could be playing varsity now,” Jemmett said. “I don’t feel intimidated anymore, and definitely don’t have that nervousness that was there before.”

Frank said he saw something in Jemmett when the youngster battled through his early struggles as a freshman, and he appreciated how well Jemmett responded.

“It takes a lot of mental toughness to go through what he did,” Frank said. “It takes a lot of confidence in yourself to believe in your abilities. He’s always had that, which is a very important quality in an athlete or in any successful person.”

Since overcoming his early jitters, Jemmett has turned in a performance as steady as Frank could ask for. Jemmett has hit everywhere from leadoff to third in the Vikings’ batting order, and is as good a contact hitter as can be found in the Western League. He runs the bases with veteran savvy, and anchors La Jolla’s defense with good range, a reliable arm and smart decision-making at shortstop, a position many feel is the most important defensive position on the diamond.

“He’s a real smart baseball player - he’s got great instincts,” Frank said. “As he’s gotten older, he’s gotten quicker. Even before he developed good speed, though, he was always a good baserunner. He really understands the game. He’s not a real vocal guy, but he’s the kind of guy you want in the middle of your infield and in the middle of your lineup just because he can control the game with his actions.”

Outside of the high school season, Jemmett plays for the ABD Bulldogs travel team. His performance there, and with La Jolla, has gotten him noticed by college coaches, and he was recently named to the California Baseball Coaches’ Association Top Players of 2008 list.

Jemmett has received offers to play at a handful of schools, but because he intends to focus as much on academics as baseball, he is being selective in choosing a college. He would like to attend one of the University of California school, and also mentioned Ohio State as a possibility. He said he would attempt to earn a roster spot as a walk-on if he ends up at one of those larger schools.

Frank is confident Jemmett will be successful.

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And if Jemmett finds himself on a college roster next spring, don’t be surprised if he repeats his high school experience and quickly makes an impact.

“He isn’t the biggest guy in the world, so he sometimes gets overlooked at one-day showcases, but anybody who has seen him play day in and day out would never doubt his ability to play at the next level,” Frank said.

“It’s just a question of giving him a chance.”