Cassville raises expectation for next season
Cassville baseball coach Kyle Wood made his team watch as the Monett Cubs celebrated a district title after defeating his Wildcats 9-1, last Wednesday.
He didn't make his team gaze upon their chief rival's celebration because it was grandiose or disrespectful to his squad, but because he wanted them to see that they could be in those shoes next year.
"I told our guys that there is no reason why we can't win a district championship next season," Wood said. "We are young team with a tremendous sophomore class. A year ago, Monett was in the same boat with a talented young team that fell short in the district title and this year they won it."
Cassville entered the district tournament with an 8-14 record. No one, except those ardent Wildcat fans, believed that they could make much noise. As a matter of fact, Cassville, a four-seed, had lost to the top two teams in the tourney and split a pair of games with the other three teams during the regular season.
"This team had shown flashes of what it was capable of all season long," Wood said. "Our problem was consistency."
A 7-3 win over East Newton to open district play wasn't a shock, but no one would have blamed them if they had bowed out.
That win sent Cassville into a semifinal bout with top-seeded Carl Junction.
As one Cassville fan said before the game "The Washington Generals have as much of a chance beating the Globetrotters as we do with Carl Junction."
For six innings, the Wildcats were frustrated by the Bulldogs. Cassville had had their chances loading the bases twice in the first two innings but only scratching across a single tally.
Other opportunities in the game were squandered by having two runners thrown out on the base paths trying to be aggressive and watching a squeeze play backfire and result in an easy out at home plate.
The Wildcats came to bat in the seventh frame trailing 5-2.
With one out, the unthinkable happened, everything just clicked.
"We had had good at-bats and plenty of base runners all game long just crummy luck because we were trying to force things," Wood said. "But we remained focused and calm. Even in the seventh we held our composure."
One by one, Cassville hitters began reaching base. Clutch hitting, two-strike hitting, line drives, duck snorts and bloopers all found holes in the Bulldog defense.
By the time Carl Junction could record a second out, nine batters had hit and six black and gold clad runners had crossed the plate.
"That was the team that Coach [Danny] Powers and I knew we had," Wood said. "They didn't quit and they battled through every pitch."
The title game didn't go as planned and an old defensive problem of errors reared its ugly head. Still, Cassville battled in a game that, which according to the experts, they had no business being in.
As Wood surveyed his team, he noted that he only had one senior in Marcus Weatherman. His starting lineup consisted of one freshman, four sophomores and three juniors.
"Marcus will be tough to replace. I can't say enough about that young man and what he has meant to this team," Wood said. "He is a great kid and was our rock behind the plate for three years. He was coachable and a kid that you wish you could keep."
With his returners, Wood is hopeful.
"We have a great team coming back," Wood said. "The defensive problems we had this season are correctable. The solution is to get the boys to play more games. Work hard in the offseason.
"We showed that we could win games in this tournament. There is no reason why next year that first-place trophy can't be ours."