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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF @NWABENGOFF Sam Golden, Bentonville catcher, in the 1st inning vs Fayetteville Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at Bentonville's Tiger Athletic Complex.

BENTONVILLE -- Sam Golden rose out of his stance and quickly prepared himself to throw to second base, but the baseball briefly slipped out of his hand and he had to regain his grip on it.

That turn of events didn't matter. The Bentonville High junior catcher still delivered a perfect throw to his teammate, and the Van Buren baserunner recorded an out instead of a stolen base during a recent 6A-West Conference game at the Tiger Athletic Complex.

Sam Golden

SCHOOL Bentonville High

CLASS Junior

POSITION Catcher

HEIGHT 6-1

WEIGHT 230

NOTABLE A two-year starter behind the plate who also saw playing time as a freshman. … Had a two-hit day in Friday’s game against Blue Valley, Kan., which raised his batting average to .326 this season. … Also has two doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs. … Has thrown out 7 of 18 potential base stealers this season. … Also was a member of the Tigers’ football team, where he played tight end.

"I was expecting him to run," Golden said as he recalled the play. "He was getting antsy out there, and he was showing he was going to run.

"I transferred too quickly, but I've worked on my arm strength. I've got great arm strength, so I still have confidence in my throw. I really don't worry if I double-clutch it. I have faith in my teammates that they're going to catch the ball. I just throw it, he catches it and we get the runner out."

Bentonville coach Todd Abbott said his team has greatly benefited by what Golden has done behind the plate the past two seasons. Golden not only handles a number of Tiger pitchers and tries to keep them in control, but he manages to keep a good portion of opposing baserunners close.

Golden (6-foot-1, 230 pounds), who refers to himself as a "defense first catcher," has thrown out 7 of 18 potential base-stealers through 19 games this season. That included the only Fayetteville player that tried to test Golden's arm during Monday's game at Fayetteville.

"Man, he's exceptional when it comes to throwing the ball like that," Abbott said. "He's a difference maker. He has a gift. He has a quick release and a strong arm, and he's accurate. So we're spoiled in the fact that situations like that will happen.

"There might be a ball that goes in the dirt or he might have to double-clutch it, and we'll still have a chance to throw the runner out when most guys aren't that way. Once the ball is in the dirt or the catcher bobbles the ball, in most situations the runner gets the bag. With Sam, it's typically always going to be close."

Golden said he still continues to fine-tune his skills in hopes of taking his game to the next level. The biggest area he worked on was his flexibility because of his size, so he made sure he ran and stretched every day.

Meanwhile, he's also worked on being a better leader on and off the field. It was something he knew he had to develop after playing some varsity baseball as a freshman and being a starter last year, and Abbott said Golden has never been a shy person and willing to share what is on his mind.

"I have to be a better leader this year because I didn't have as much confidence in myself last year," Golden said. "I didn't trust my skill level as much last year. I asked my teammates and my coaches what I needed to do, and I started working on it every single day, not necessarily the physical part of the game but the mental part as well."

While the defensive part of Golden's game stands out more, he continues to improve at the plate. He currently sports a .326 batting average after a two-hit game Friday against Blue Valley, Kan., and he has two doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs, including one he drove in Tuesday during Bentonville's 6-3 loss Tuesday against Fayetteville.

"He's continuing to grow," Abbott said. "Obviously, he's a better baseball player. He's bigger, he's faster, he's stronger. He's more efficient at things.

"He's moving in the right direction. He's going to be an outstanding baseball player throughout his career, and there's no doubt he's going to have an outstanding life after baseball because he's that type of person."

Sports on 04/14/2019

Print Headline: PREP BASEBALL: Simply Golden Bentonville junior shines as 'defense-first catcher'

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