HANNIBAL — Hannibal left fielder Charlie Culp entered the 2021 baseball season determined to make the most of his senior season after missing out on the previous season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to this season, Culp had only a handful of starts at the varsity level, but plenty of experience playing American Legion baseball.
Culp said he and his fellow senior teammates were disappointed to miss out on their junior seasons in 2020.
“We all had the same fire,” Culp said. “We didn’t get (the season) last year and it got bigger. I talked to a lot of the younger guys and told them it was my last go-around with you guys, have fun with what you are doing and let’s make it a great season.”
It turned out to be a great season for Hannibal, who tied their single-season wins record with 16.
It also turned out to be a great individual season for Culp, who broke school records in two offensive categories. Culp now owns the single-season record with 37 hits and 41 RBIs.
“The RBI record stood for 30 years and the hits record had some pretty big names up there with guys who left a mark on the team,” Culp said. “To be able to break those records and set new ones was awesome.”
Hannibal baseball head coach Ian Hatton said he thinks Culp’s single-season RBI record is going to stand for a long time.
“Since I’ve been in Hannibal, we’ve had a lot of great players and had a lot of solid middle of the lineup guys,” Hatton said. “I don’t think we’ve had anyone who performed the way (Culp did). I think he did a great job of handling situations, knowing that RBIs come when you just get balls in play and he did that all year for us.”
Hatton added it was impressive that Culp was able to get 37 hits in a 24-game season.
“He has great power, but at the same time he has great ability,” Hatton said. “Especially with two strikes, he’s able to just get the bat on the ball. He doesn’t get that kind of record without a great approach at the plate and some patience.”
One record Culp has looked up to was his father’s, Charles Culp, who holds the school’s single-season batting average record at .596.
Culp said he has always strived to be as good of a hitter as his father was during his career at Hannibal from 1996-99.
“From T-ball up, dad’s always been right there next to me telling me how to load, land and launch,” Culp said. “We built a batting cage behind the house and spent countless hours out there hitting. He put a lot of time and effort into us kids. He showed how much he loved us and really cared about us. I wouldn’t be breaking any records or being close to where I’m at without him.”
Hatton said Culp has made a lot of strides since joining the team as a freshman.
“He’s been well-coached from a young age and we knew we had something to work with,” Hatton said. “I think the biggest thing for him was just improving mentally and getting more confidence in himself. He definitely did that and it showed this year.”
Culp emerged as a team leader in his senior year, along with his senior teammate and best friend Drake Dudley.
It was actually Dudley who first broke the single-season hits record during Hannibal’s regular season finale against Highland, before Culp tied the record and surpassed Dudley. Both players were awarded the team co-MVP in the awards banquet.
Culp said Dudley is a fantastic athlete who helped push him to better himself as a baseball player.
“He’s got determination on and off the field,” Culp said. “I knew for a long time we would be going up against each other competing in some records and getting hits. I knew he was getting that stolen base record and he helped me get that RBI and hits record.”
Culp plans on attending Hannibal-LaGrange University and playing for the Trojans baseball team next year.
The biggest selling point for Culp was how close HLGU is to home.
“Their program is solid,” Culp said. “I met their coach a couple of times and their coaching staff is great. The team energy is there. There’s a lot of good connections between the group of guys because I went through a showcase with them. Every single one of them came up and talked to me.”