As if there was any doubt, the crew of Mulvane senior ballplayers is headed to the diamond – after wrapping up pit stops on the gridiron and hardwood – for one final bow.
Zach Haynes, Ty Redington, Alex Evans, Nolan Smith, Jarrett Price and Cole Williams – the same names dig in deep together every season.
“That core has been there from football, basketball and baseball from their freshman year on,” said Mulvane baseball coach Danial Myears. “This is your last hoorah.”
This year, the boys made a run to the 4A state semifinals in football. In basketball, the comrades had a winning record, but an early exit in sub-state is only fueling the desire for more as they look toward baseball.
“Our goals are simple. Win league. Win regional. Win state,” Haynes said. “We're going to make this as long as we possibly can, until the end of May.”
No one in this group had to go out for every sport. That is what defines the squad – every player battles for the other. Redington, the quarterback, needed a receiver, so Smith played football. Smith, the point guard, had to have a scorer to distribute to, so Redington joined him on the basketball court. Whether or not each sport is their favorite, they sacrifice free time to look out for one another.
Baseball is their final shot. It may also be their best shot.
The Wildcats are bouncing off a 21-5 season. Mulvane lost to St. James Academy 10-2 in the state semifinals before cracking in the third place game to Ottawa, 24-9.
“Last year was a great year for us. We finished fourth,” Haynes said. “We made it the second farthest of any other (Mulvane) team.”
“We were obviously looking to beat St. James and play in the state championship.”
Coming up with the pieces for another crack at that goal is not a problem.
Redington, the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division III MVP, returns for time at shortstop and catcher.
“He's a solid player in everything he does,” Myears said.
Leading off the lineup is Smith, a speedster who uses anything from bunts to bloopers to get on base. Price and Evans offer bone-crushing power in the heart of the lineup. Haynes and Williams – who Myears calls “quiet as a church mouse” – add steady bats that force pitchers to attack every hitter.
“He's the guy who never complains about anything,” Haynes said of Williams. “He shows up and does his job. He's a tough-nosed kid and won't let any ball get past him.”
The wild card in the lineup is junior Andrew Berry. He will see time at first and catcher, but if the pop his bat shows off in practice follows into game action, the offense heats up a few degrees.
The question mark is the rotation. Mulvane lost its top two starters, but the replacements are well groomed.
Evans and Haynes will be counted on for the one-two punch on the hill. Price will be asked to step up as an innings eater, too. So may juniors Collin Dempsey and Trevor Wayman.
The name brand players are there. The talent is there. The experience is there. The companionship is there.
Is a state title in there?
“Obviously we want to get to the state tournament again,” Myears said. “We want to make something happen.”