Summer’s spectacular for DHS baseball team
Was it the triple blasted off the right field fence by Brady Maasen, or the fact that he ran home on a throwing error?
Was it Erik Hill flying from his catcher's stance to throw out a runner at second, or the long and strong pitching performances of Jerin Riffle and Dylan Burford?
Maybe, De Soto baseball coach Joel Thaemert said. It may have been any of those moments, and it was all of those. Together they've helped make what Thaemert termed great summer for the Wildcat baseball program.
It wasn't just those highlights, taken Tuesday from a pair of De Soto wins. The Wildcats 18U summer team is 13-4, they're playing well and Thaemert said they're learning a lot. Still, the best part, he said, is that from one end of the bench to the other, they're having fun.
"It's been good," he said. "It's just been a good experience. The guys are getting to know each other. We've just been having a lot of fun."
The fun is great, Thaemert said. He's taken plenty of joy out of getting to know the players better, too. De Soto was 12-9 in the coach's first year with the program, and he said he's really learning to treasure the time he's spending with the kids this summer.
Last year he didn't move from his previous stop, Russell, until July, so he went into the high school baseball season nearly blind as to what sort of ability he was deal with.
It should be a whole new story this season.
"I still wish I had been able to coach them last summer," Thaemert said. "I wish I had gotten to know them. That's over and down with though. It's been a lot of fun this year and we've done a lot of good things.
"We're playing in a league that's perfect for us. We've seen some descent pitching, and I'm learning a lot about the young guys. It's a big, big help."
In addition to building both a rapport between the players and one between the coach and his team, the squad has been able to learn about itself. Without the pressure of regular season baseball, Thaemert has been able to tinker and experiment with different players in different positions.
"We've been learning about their swings and about what they can and can't do," he said. "Our catching situation has gone from not knowing about it to strong. Erik Hill's caught great. Logan Clark ash improved so much and Logan Buffkin has improved a lot. We also found out Brady Maasen can play third."
"We're a lot more versatile now, and we're not so locked into positions. We're figuring out how everything will set up."
Even with the summer head start, the baseball team will lace up the cleats in March fielding far more questions than it has answers to hit back. Most of the team's offensive pop is gone with powerful graduates Austin DeGraeve, Tyler Farmer and Jerod Bader. The Cats also lose key pitching, again counting Farmer and Bader, and reliever Dustin Grimes.
Thaemert said he's beginning to see a pitching rotation form up, however. Brady Maasen, who only worked one inning Tuesday, was one of the team's most reliable arms a season ago. Jerin Riffle also added innings as a starter and should be in line for a much larger role in the coming season.
Both have shown their coach plenty to smile about this summer.
"We've found six or seven pitchers and we've found hitters for our top six spots that we can be pretty competitive with," Thaemert said. "Maasen and Travis Crow have both taken big jumps offensively. They know it's their team now and they've done a good job with that."