There are times when Trenton Lape will stand in the outfield during a game and wonder what things would be like if he were 200 feet closer.
It doesn’t happen all the time, the Parkway senior admits, but he can’t help but wonder. After all, were it not for a set of unfortunate circumstances, he’d be the one standing on the pitcher’s mound, controlling the game with every pitch.
“I think about that every day,” Lape says. “It’s something that goes through my head all the time.”
Instead, he plays center field and stays ready for the infrequent moments when the ball will come his way. He has to stay ready to make a play because he knows it’s what is needed for the Panthers. Once the play is made, Lape also has to be ready to make a throw back into the infield. And when he does, he knows something else.
It’s going to hurt.
“In the moment, I’m more concerned about trying to throw the runner out,” he says, “but there’s no doubt it’s going to hurt.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Almost by the time Trenton Lape had figured out where the school cafeteria was located at Parkway, he had an offer (and was verbally committed) to play college baseball at LSU. Pretty strong stuff for a freshman.
As a sophomore, he was 4-2 with a 1.85 ERA, striking out 68 in 41 innings. On March 16 of that year, he threw a no-hitter in which he struck out 11 and yet only threw 70 pitches. His fastball that night was clocked at 92 miles per hour. He was only five days removed from his 16th birthday.
You talk about a kid who had it all going for him … until he didn’t.
The Panthers were playing Haughton in the final week of the ’21 regular season in a big district game. “I went out to long toss that day, but I hadn’t even reached the full distance and my arm started to hurt,” Lape remembers. “But I got on the mound and was still getting it up there pretty good. But by the fourth inning, it was hurting worse and worse.”
The diagnosis was bone spurs and he had surgery in the beginning of the summer. But as it turned out, the problem wasn’t bone spurs; it was actually a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) injury and he had surgery for that in November of his junior year.
He was not able to recover enough to pitch in 2022, but that wasn’t going to keep him off the field. Lape was able to play second base (where the length of throws are not as strenuous) and was one of the top hitters in leading Parkway to a share of the District 1-5A championship.
He had hoped that the strength in his arm would return for this season, but it never did. The idea of picking up where he left off as a sophomore has not panned out. The surgery he had during the fall of his junior year did not do what had been hoped.
So after Lape finishes his senior season at Parkway, he will have another surgery on May 31. This time, it will be a complete “Tommy John” surgery to give him a new ulnar collateral ligament, rather than just to try to repair it.
“I didn’t get hurt again,” he says. “I’m still hurt. The last two years have been a grind. I’m just playing through it as best I can.”
Proof of that has come from some occasional appearances on the mound (three innings) this year, even coming in to close a district game against Captain Shreve. Most high school pitchers would kill to be able to throw 88 miles per hour; Lape was throwing that hard at what he says was “75-80 percent.”
Lape knows he’s likely headed for a redshirt year once he gets to LSU, but he’s not necessarily going to be a pitcher once he gets to Baton Rouge. Sure, his arm is what got him noticed in the first place, but he’s primarily been a second baseman and an outfielder the last two years, so he’s nothing if not versatile.
He’s batting .383 with three home runs and 21 RBI and had two home runs, a double and five RBI in a game earlier this week.
“I still feel like when I’m on the mound, I can strike out anybody and when I’m at the plate, I can get a hit off anybody,” he says. “But this whole experience has taught me a lot.”
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