Eagles continue chasing district title

Since the 2020 season canceled for COVID, the Purdy baseball team has been living a “Groundhog Day” experience.

Setting the goal every season to win a district title, the last four attempts in a row have all come to an end thanks to one opponent — Marionville.

Against the Comets, the Eagles suffered a 4-0 loss in the first round in 2021, a 3-1 loss in the district championship in 2022, an 8-7 loss in the first round in 2023 and a 9-3 loss in this year’s installment on May 14.

“We just have to continue to get better all over the field and all areas of the game,” said Joshua Hughes, Purdy baseball coach. “We’ve been close for four years in a row. It just happens that Marionville has been that team that’s beat us for the past four years.”

At 12-19 this season, the Eagles produced a double-digit win total, but also saw its first sub-.500 campaign since 2015. Hughes said the squad improved as the season progressed, and play on the mound was exceptional.

“Just the everyday grind of the season was huge,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that haven’t played at the varsity level, and they showed up every day and were grinding every day to get better. Our pitching was young, with only one senior that threw for us, [but it] was our strongest area this year. Offensively and defensively we could have been a lot better.”

Purdy’s best run this season was a three-game streak, which included wins over College Heights, Southwest and McAuley Catholic. One of those wins stood out above the rest.

“We beat Southwest on a walk off grand slam by senior Hunter Lee,” Hughes said. “We were down 7 going into the bottom of the 7th and scored 8 runs to win.”

Lee and Trenton Breazzeal were the only two seniors on the squad this year, and Hughes said their contributions will be missed.

“Hunter and Trenton were huge leaders for us,” Hughes said. “Both of them provided different things at different times, and they both are just awesome young men. They were great to be around and huge part of our program.”

The mark left by those seniors will have a larger-than-normal impact, as 19 total players are expected to return in 2025, including 13 freshmen and sophomores.

“They all got huge experience at the V/JV levels this year,” Hughes said. “They will bring back more experience, and they work really hard at getting better to help us win games.”

Purdy hopes experience gained now will prove fruitful in the future, as the goal each season does not change.

“We have a goal of being district champions and moving on in the state playoffs every year,” Hughes said. “As a group, me included, we need to get better at preparing for the big moments. Two-out hitting, making routine plays in the moment and having a higher baseball IQ — all of this starts with me and our coaching staff helping them get there and preparing them better.

“We want to be district champions. We lost last [May 14], and I’ve seen guys hitting or at the fields already preparing to become that district champion. It isn’t an easy goal. But it is attainable.”

With expectations on the field increasing, Hughes said he believes his boys are up to the challenge.

“Our guys are an awesome group of guys,” he said. “They let me coach them hard and hold them accountable. We are on the right track, but we need to continue to grow on the field.”

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