Border Battle: Baseball 2017

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Cameron Jantsch

Launching the ball to first base, senior Henry Miller catches the ball in his glove, getting the out. Quickly grabbing the ball with his other hand, he throws the ball to second for the double play. “Safe!” the umpire yells, shocking the East players. 

Confused by the call, they exchanged puzzled glances but with the score at 0-1 in the game against Deer Creek, they tried to focus on the rest of the game. Playing the 33rd ranked team in the nation had been intimidating, but they were determined to keep their momentum. 

Over spring break, the baseball team made the trip down to Edmond, Oklahoma, for four days to play the 6A Oklahoma state champions and the state runner-ups in exhibition games. They had never done anything like this before, but made the trip down with two goals in mind. 

“We wanted to do two things,” SM East Coach Jerrod Ryherd said. “Those were to get the team bonding and then play the best competition we could.”

With seven of the nine starters returning from the previous year, three of them being Division I athletes, the team was excited to compete with tough Oklahoma teams. Multiple schools from Kansas City had been making the trip for years, and Coach Ryherd decided it would be a great way to get the team some good preseason competition. 

“They have awesome facilities, baseball is really big down there,” Ryherd said. “We wanted to get out and play a couple games when a lot of teams are doing nothing with baseball.”

With the extra preseason games came an added commitment. In preparation for the games, the team was forced to increase practice time and add extra workouts prior to the trip to Oklahoma.

The trip was not only about playing baseball, but also about growing as a team. With 17 players on the roster, many of them new to the varsity team, getting to know the new members was important. The team packed into vans for the four hour drive down and spent the night in a hotel, spending their time at Top Golf and eating pizza as a team.

“I’m hoping that the team grew some memories that’ll last forever and grew a lot from a team standpoint,” Ryherd said. 

While the team participated in many team bonding activities every night, they mainly focused on the games. They played last year’s state runner-up, Deer Creek High School, on Friday, losing 1-2, and last year’s state champion, Edmond Memorial High School the following day, winning 9-4. Despite the loss of their first game, they were excited to compete with stiff competition and get in extra games before the season started.

 “Obviously we wanted to win the first game, but they’re the number 34 team in the nation and to go down there and only lose 2-1 in our first game of the year, we’re pretty happy with that,” Fritz said. 

With the success of the trip, the team is planning on making it a tradition. They were able to bond as a team, as well as get the chance to play more games before the season, benefitting the rest of their season and the program as a whole.