Cody Nulph is having fun again. You can see it in his smile and sense it when he shares a high-five with teammates.
The Orange Lutheran shortstop is experiencing an MVP-like senior season. On Tuesday, he had a triple and two singles and turned in his usual strong defensive performance in the Lancers' 8-2 Trinity League victory over Anaheim Servite.
Lutheran is off to a 6-0 start in league play.
"It's real big for us," Nulph said.
Nulph is a four-year starter who began his high school career trying to overcome a gut-wrenching tragedy.
Coach Eric Borba remembers receiving a phone call at 10:30 p.m. from Nulph in the fall of his freshman year.
"Coach, my dad died, and he shot himself."
What's a 15-year-old supposed to do?
"He was a caring, loving father. You never expect that to happen," Borba said.
Through the help of family, friends, teammates and teachers, Nulph carried on.
"It was really tough," Nulph said.
Last season, there were signs his father's absence had finally hit him, Borba said.
But this season, with a scholarship awaiting him at Pepperdine and growing inner peace, Nulph has moved forward and focused on enjoying baseball.
"It's awesome to see how he's matured over the last four years, and he's being rewarded with his success this year," Borba said.
Lutheran (13-3) might be the No. 1 team in Southern California. Art Moran-Vidrio (4-0) threw six innings, giving up three hits. He was supported by one of the best infields defensively, including Nulph, sophomore third baseman Josh Morgan, junior second baseman Travis Blue and senior first baseman Tommy Bell.
"It's fun to watch our infielders take pregame," Borba said. "All are tremendous with the gloves. We talked to our pitchers, 'You might be playing in front of the best infield defense you're ever going to play in front of. Trust them, use them.' "
Said Nulph: "We trust each other. We know the next guy is going to pick us up."
Nulph is picking up his teammates, just like they once helped him.