Nixa’s run to the Class 6 District 6 championship last week saw shortstop Caeden Cloud repeatedly make plays for the third out of an inning with the opponent having a runner in scoring position.
Each time, Cloud delivered. It was part of a flawless fielding performance by the Eagles in their semifinal victory against Ozark and final win versus Republic.
Cloud feels he plays best under pressure by not worrying about the game, just focusing on the ground ball he is trying to field and the throw he is trying to complete.
“A lot of times I try not to think about it — don't even think about the situation, whatever it is, and just go out and make the play,” he said. “I feel I do best when I don't think about it and just play and have fun. When I have a clear head, I feel I play my best and make the play the way I know how to and have done hundreds and hundreds of times in practices.”
In his first full season as Nixa’s shortstop, Cloud has fulfilled expectations by being consistently good, if not great. He’s not nearly as celebrated as classmate Wyatt Vincent in the eyes of outsiders to the Eagles’ program, but is every bit as bright a prospect.
One of the biggest questions in Nixa’s camp in the pre-season was who would take over at shortstop. Cloud now figures to assume that spot for three seasons.
“We saw some things in Cloud — the arm is really good, he's heads-up and takes command of the infield,” coach Logan Hughes said. “It was one of those things where we said, 'That's how we're going, that's who we're trusting.' He's settled in really well.”
Cloud has made almost all of the routine plays and also turned in a handful of highlights.
“There have been a few times in which I've had a brain fart and done something I don't normally do or made a mental error like letting something get under my glove or make a bad throw,” he said. “But I think it’s gone good. I've been working hard on off days getting ground balls.”
Likewise, his bat has been productive out of the No. 3 hole.
“I think I've been decent, but think I can be a lot better,” Cloud said. “I expect a lot better out of me. I've got to continue to work hard.”
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