Tart ‘groomed’ to be Hattiesburg’s next star

By CAMAL PETRO,

Sophomore Caleb Tart is following in some impressive footsteps. Just like Hattiesburg seniors Joe Gray and Dexter Jordan, Tart is in line to be a four-year starter for the Hattiesburg Tigers after beginning his varsity career as a freshman shortstop in 2017.

Now a sophomore, Tart is wise beyond his years after playing just about every game at one of the more important positions in the field, and now he’s a state champion after the Tigers completed the sweep of Lewisburg last week in the 5A State Championship series.

“They took me under their wing,” Tart said of the Hattiesburg senior class. “They’ve groomed me into what I am today and pushed me to be better than I was yesterday. I’m just thankful to have them.”

There’s no doubt Tart is primed to have an excellent career at Hattiesburg, and it all started as a freshman when he hit .382 from the plate in 34 at-bats. That number grew to 105 at-bats as a sophomore, and he contributed with a .286 average and 32 runs scored.

Defensively, his fielding percentage jumped, too. As a ninth-grader, he committed eight errors in 63 total chances, but in 86 chances in 2018, he committed just eight errors.

Hattiesburg coach Joe Hartfield called him the “most coachable” player on the team prior to the championship series starting last week, adding he overcomes his small stature with his presence and attitude.

“Coach told me to believe in myself, so I just took that and ran with it and played with confidence,” Tart said.

Tart was a big reason why Hattiesburg was able to make a run to the state championship this season. After the Tigers lost in Game 1 to South Jones in the third round, he went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI to help even the series, then 2-for-3 with three runs and an RBI in Game 3.

In the 5A South State Series against West Jones, his defense helped sweep that series to earn a trip to Trustmark Park. There, he went 3-for-7 with an RBI.

“After (the South Jones loss), we came together and followed what the coaches were doing and be coachable,” Tart said. “Just do what we had to do to get where we are now.”