DeSoto pitcher leads Jayhawks to state
Eudora-based youth baseball team headed to Ottawa tournament
Threes are wild for the Jayhawks.
No, not those Jayhawks the 15-year-old players on the Eudora-based Babe Ruth baseball team.
Last weekend the three-time league champions won their third consecutive district championship and third consecutive sportsmanship award at the district seven tournament in Paola.
"Everything went smoothly," said Greg Francis, a pitcher and lone DeSoto resident on the team. "It just all came together out there."
After the win, Francis and his 15-year-old teammates are headed for the state tournament in Ottawa this weekend.
"We have a really good ball team," said Steven Rehmer, an outfielder on the Jayhawks. "Last year we went to state too, and we have just about the same team as last year, so we are expecting to do pretty well."
In fact, the Jayhawks are the defending state champions and placed fourth in the regional tournament last year. But Head Coach Joe Pyle said it would take a lot of good games and a little luck to get back to that status again this season.
"It's going to be tough this year," Pyle said. "At the state level, the teams are so good that things have to go just right for you."
But the team breezed through the district championships undefeated and is peaking just in time for state. Pyle said as long as the boys played together and maintained solid defense, they would do well in their first state tournament game Friday at noon.
"The key to our success has always been our strong defensive team," Pyle said. "But the main thing is that we play as a team. There is no dominant player. Everyone works together to ensure the success of the team. If we do those things, we'll be competitive at the state level."
Francis said that as a pitcher, it was comforting to know there was a strong defensive behind him.
"When people hit the ball, I don't have to worry," Francis said. "It's nice to have a good defense that you know will make the plays."
Part of a good defense is working together. And team camaraderie showed last weekend as the Jayhawks brought home their third consecutive sportsmanship award.
"In my mind it shows a good example of how the boys conduct themselves, how the coaches conduct themselves, and how the fans conduct themselves," Pyle said.
"We really represent it well."
The award, which is usually given to the second place finishers, is something that Pyle said he, assistant coach Rod Moyer and the team prided themselves on.
But it's an award that Rehmer said came naturally to the team.
"We play to have fun and we don't trash talk everybody. We just go out there and play," Rehmer said. "It shows that we're playing as a team and it shows well of our community."
Playing a classy and respectable game is something that Francis said was important, and in doing so allowed the team to play good, solid baseball.
"We just have to play our game," Francis said. "When we play well, we win."