Meridian Star

Sports

April 17, 2014

SEL baseball is seeking an undefeated district record for the fourth straight season

MERIDIAN —     With three district games remaining, the Southeast Lauderdale High School baseball team has an opportunity to reach an accomplishment that is rarely achieved.

    The Tigers currently boast a 14-7 overall record and a 7-0 mark in District 5-3A play.

    Yet what is truly astounding is that the seniors currently on roster have yet to lose a district game in their entire high school careers.

“All I can say is that it’s just a great feeling,” senior pitcher Nathan Ross said.         “We just have good team chemistry. (The seniors) have been playing together all of our lives, and we know each other better than anyone else does. We pick each other up and help work on things that we need to work on.”

    However, the road to perfection hasn’t come as easily this season with multiple seniors nursing injuries.

    Three-year starting catcher Mason Irby, who sports a .500 batting average with 20 RBI, has been reduced to a designated hitter role after injuring his right elbow just five games into the season.

    “It wasn’t too bad,” Irby said of the adjustment going from catcher to DH. “It gave me the chance to be in the dugout and help keep everyone energized. That’s the role that I fill now.”

    Additionally, centerfielder/pitcher Gage Hagan has been limited to positional play in the outfield this season due to a back injury, and infielder Zack Sciple is currently out with a broken ankle.

    “We’ve had people step up,” Southeast Lauderdale coach Shay Cooper said. “We had a freshman that was thrown in the fire. He’s had to step up. He’s had to learn on the run, and he’s done well for us.”

    That freshman is catcher is Bryan Rivers, who has substituted in place of Irby since his injury.

    With the guidance of Irby, Rivers has managed to adequately step in place of the senior.

    “If I notice anything that is going on in the game, I’ll talk to him,” Irby said. “I talk to him about bunt coverage, what to do with runners on base and helping him have to think the way he’s going to have to do later on down the road.”

    Added Ross, “When the inning is up, I always be sure to encourage him. I tell him, ‘Way to block up,’ and to keep doing good.”

    The Tigers got off to a rocky start to begin the year, losing five of their first seven contests.

    “We had some things that we had to figure out,” Cooper said.        “But our pitching kept us in games. We weren’t scoring runs early on.”

    Cooper said the early season struggles were just a matter of players simply coming into their own.

    “Offensively, some guys had to improve, and they have developed,” Cooper said. “We feel we’re at our best point right now.”

    One win away from clinching district, and three wins away from notching a perfect district career for the seniors, their focus remains on the task at hand.

    “It’s a great feeling just knowing that up to this point we haven’t lost a game in district,” Irby said. “You’re proud of that, but at the same time, we know we have three games left. We can’t think too much on that until we win these last three games.”

    Added Cooper, “The thing we focus on more than anything is to give the best effort every time. If we take care of us, I feel like we’ll be in good shape.”

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