For much of last season it seemed Reynaldo Adames was toying with the competition.
The Milton senior had virtually unmatched success at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths, and he was a clear-cut choice for Daily Item Player of the Year.
Whether it was a three-month-long hot streak or that he simply was that good, Adames appeared to play at a level above his peers.
Now that he literally is playing at a level beyond high school, very little has changed.
Adames made a seamless transition to the college game, stepping onto the field at Allegany College of Md. as a ballplayer ready to contribute. Immediately.
"I was warming up for our first game and coach came up to me and told me, 'Rey, you're batting fourth and DH today,'" Adames recalled this week. "I was like, 'All right,' but I told myself, Wow! I'm batting four in college! That's crazy."
Adames went 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs and a stolen base that Feb. 15 afternoon debut at Lenoir Community College (N.C.). His first collegiate hit was a two-run double.
The center fielder currently leads Allegany -- one of the northeast's junior college powers -- in runs scored (35) and stolen bases (21), while ranking second in hits (51), third in total bases (61) and batting a crisp .329.
In just the last month, Adames has raked at a .386 clip (including a 14-game hitting streak that was snapped May 2 at Chesapeake College), with 20 runs scored and 10 steals.
"I've been seeing the ball pretty good," he said. "I'm getting used to college ball."
Adames had planned to attend Bloomsburg University, but one night, while talking to his older brother Raymond about college, he received a call inviting him to work out at Allegany.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to (attend) there or not," Adames said, "but before I went to work out, I remembered (Milton coach Chace) Phillips telling me that the coach from Allegany was from Milton. That was one of the reasons why I came down here."
"Milton native" gets lost on Steve Bazarnic's vast resume. The former Penn State third baseman has been Allegany's coach since 1971. He is the winningest active coach in the National Junior College Athletic Association with more than 1,300 wins. A member of the NJCAA Hall of Fame, he led the Trojans to the NJCAA World Series nine times, most recently in 2009.
A pair of World Series champions -- former Phillies first baseman John Kruk and Lewisburg graduate Steve Kline -- are among the Major Leaguers who played for Bazarnic in Cumberland, Md.
While not set in a stereotypical bustling college town ("Love the school and the baseball team but not the town -- it's really boring," said Adames) the western Maryland school, about 60 miles due south of Johnstown, is a gateway to bigger and better things on the baseball landscape.
Adames realized the doors that could be opened by playing well there when he decided to attend Allegany. He plans to play a second season with the hope of getting drafted by a Major League team or pulling a scholarship from a Division I college program.
Warrior Run graduate Todd Brouse is also first-year Trojans outfielder, batting .238 in 15 games.
"I'm going to work my hardest this summer, lifting and running a lot. My goal is to hit over .400 and have more than 40 steals next season," Adames said. "My dream is to play pro ball someday."
It's obvious he'll do his level best to make it.
Scott Dudinskie covers high school baseball for The Daily Item. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.