While the cloud of dust eventually settled the smile was almost always present.

It was flashed in the dugout, reappeared when a conversation started at second base with an opposing player, and continued when the trek to the team bus was seemingly interrupted by quick visits every 2 feet.

With that said it was never bigger than when Cole Tucker emerged from that dust cloud.

Mountain Pointe’s junior shortstop had made yet another instinctive dive to erase a sure base hit before flipping the ball, while still in his glove, to second baseman Brantley Bell, who made a tough turn on a double play last week against Brophy.

“That’s what he does, but you are still like, ‘Oh, my gosh,” Pride coach Brandon Buck said. “He amazes me every day. There are balls he shouldn’t get to that he does and he makes every routine play. He does things like that to pick us up all of the time.”

Simply put, Tucker loves the game of baseball and it shows every time he puts on the uniform.

He plays with a boundless energy, plays the game the right way, and brings the best of out his teammates all while making the occasional unbelievable play.

Oh, and he might have the best opposite field stroke that has led to a .444 (20 of 45) average with 18 runs, both of which rank second on the team, and a .576 on-base percentage.

But make no mistake, it is his defense that gives the Pride a kick in the butt.

“It builds tons of momentum for us when he makes plays like that,” Pride junior outfielder Bryce Redaja said. “We come back to the dugout and we want to keep it going with the bats. A good play like that can change a game.”

Tucker, who is committed to Arizona where his mother, Erin (Dogherty) Tucker, was a two-sport All-American, tried to play down his penchant for making the difficult play look easy by attributing it to luck.

“A lot of times I am just laying out to see if I can get close,” he said. “A blind squirrel can find a nut, but when you get to it and get the out, it is pretty awesome.”

It is something that has become the norm now that he is back to playing his natural spot at short after playing first base in 2012 while Scott Kingery held down the position.

“I’m glad to be back there,” he said. “It’s where I am most comfortable, but I am willing to play wherever they need me each day.”

Tucker’s approach isn’t surprising and is one of the reasons why he was selected to the USA 17U National Team Development Program after tryouts over the summer. In August, he will head to North Carolina to continue developing under the watchful eyes of the national coaching staff.

“It means everything to me to be included in that with a bunch of guys around the nation,” Tucker said. “Being picked for that showed me that all my hard work paid off and made me want to work that much harder.”

The hard work, and smile, is something Buck has become accustomed with from the Tucker family as Cole was around the program before his freshman year and his older brother, Quinn, was a big contributor on the 2011 state title team. It continues now with the youngest Tucker brother, Carson, serving as the team’s bat boy this season.

“We knew he was going to be pretty good,” Buck said. “They are great kids, come from a great family, they are fun to be around, and they just love the game. It comes out while they are playing.”

Tucker hopes this year’s team, off to a 11-4 start entering this week, can match what the 2011 squad did with Kevin Cron, Joey Curletta, Jordan Kipper and his brother, Quinn, leading the way.

Then that patented smile of his just might be ever present.

“I got called up to that team as a freshman and I learned all I could,” he said. “I saw what they accomplished and I want to do the same. We are playing better than people expected, but I know what this team is capable of and that’s what we are going after.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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