Trojans trudge through .500 season

1-run losses hamper Southwest baseball team


Finishing at exactly .500, the Southwest baseball team had many highlights this season, but one-run games and untimely hitting hampered the Trojans through the spring.

Derek Mann, Southwest baseball coach, said while the team ultimately fell short of its goals, it was able to accomplish plenty at 14-14.

“I think we fell short of our expectations this year as we struggled offensively,” he said. “We had some guys step up, but it just wasn’t enough for the goals we had set at the beginning of the season. We had a great fall season, but our spring was a bit rocky.

“Even with our struggles we had a chance at winning the conference, but fell short with a couple of tough losses in a row.”

Tough losses were frequent this season, as the Trojans lost six games by a single run, including a 12-11 loss at Purdy, and won four.

The campaign ended on May 13 with a 5-1 loss to Stockton in the Class 3, District 12 semifinals, a game Mann said could have gone very differently.

“Offensively, we struggled this year; and that is not to say we didn’t have baserunners in scoring position,” he said. “A game that is the perfect example of our season was the district semifinals against Stockton, we had runners in scoring position every inning and ended only getting one run across. Timely hitting was our kryptonite this year.”

The timeliest hits of the season came a month earlier, when the Trojans bested Jasper in 8 innings, 2-1.

“This game stands out to me because we were down to our last strike in the seventh before Tyler Meek ripped a single to keep us alive,” Mann said. “Then we pinch ran for him and Tristan Morgan ropes a double down the line to score the tying run from first. We ended up winning on a bloop single from Logan Gregory in the 8th inning. It was a true never give up moment and a tough game.”

The Trojans this season had two 3-game losing streaks sandwiching a 3-game win streak, and learning to battle through adversity was a hallmark of the year.

“The biggest improvement in the team this year was never giving up or just fighting until the end,” Mann said. “Like I said, we had a lot of onerun losses, but we also had some comebacks and walk-offs this year. This team fought hard in a lot of games and left it on the field.”

Six seniors are departing Southwest — Charlie Pippin, Braden Garcia, Caleb Ayer, Brendyn Paulsen, Trey Ray and Marcus Lakey — and Mann said their loss will be felt.

“They brought a lot to the team from their experience, leadership and playful attitudes,” he said. “It truly was a fun group to coach, and they will be missed.”

With 13 set to return to the squad next season, Mann said there will be no shortage of work to do.

“Our underclassmen are going to have to step up big for us next year, as we have a lot of roles that will need to be filled,” he said. “We have to replace five starters that graduated this past year, but I think our underclassmen are up to the task at hand.”

Mann’s men filling those gaps will take aim at the same set of standards and goals as this season.

“We had some lofty goals set for ourselves [this season] but just couldn’t find the break and consistency to meet those goals,” Mann said. “The end goal is always the same — to be the last team standing. Our daily goal is to just give it all we got and leave everything we have on the field.”