Purdy building to next season
Eagles moving 6 starting sophomores up in fall
The Purdy baseball team is taking some momentum into the next few seasons, as six starting sophomores are moving up in the fall to help lead at team already with double-digit wins this spring.
Joshua Hughes, Purdy baseball coach, said the 15-9 Eagles were somewhat disappointed in how the season ended.
“Everyone was disappointed we did not reach our goal of winning a district title,” he said. “But, we knew it would be hard this year.”
Purdy received the No. 2 seed and a bye into the semifinals, but a familiar Marionville team, the No. 3 seed and eventual district champion, produced a 4-0 upset. Purdy defeated the Comets in March, 6-4, but fell to them on May 8, 14-9, and in the district game on May 17.
“The kid we faced was really good,” Hughes said. “We beat him earlier in the year when he had some control issues, but in districts, he was better than we were. He was throwing a lot of strikes, and was just really good that night.”
Hughes said although the district outcome was not what his team had hoped for, the season itself was productive. After a tough 0-3 start, the Eagles rattled off eight wins in a row, then a couple weeks later, earned another six straight victories and enjoying a 15-5 record.
During the six-game streak was one of the highlights of the season for Purdy, a 7-0 win over Class 4 East Newton in a game played at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark., home of the AA Central’s Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
“Getting to play at Arvest Ballpark and beating them 7-0 was a lot of fun,” Hughes said. “We had a lot of good wins in our streaks, but being in that facility and on that field, throwing four pitchers and getting the win is something we will remember.”
Hughes said when it comes to the pair of win streaks, he knew his team had that kind of potential.
“That was one of the things that we knew going into the season, that we had a chance to rattle off some wins with our pitching rotation,” Hughes said. “When [senior Andres Aldaba] tore his ACL in the first game of the season, that was emotional and may have contributed to that 0-3 start. But, once we started playing as a team and for him, and for one another, that’s when we won the eight in a row.
“To have any streak like that over a three- to four-week period, you have to have more than one or two pitchers, and we were playing almost all year with a four-man rotation.”
Hughes said Aldaba’s injury forced a couple of sophomores into the rotation, and the team’s heavy sophomore class did work all season long.
“We had a stretch where we were throwing two sophomores at a time,” Hughes said. “Our seniors did a great job, and our sophomores did well.”
Purdy loses a handful of seniors in Clay Henderson, Jake Brown, Osiel Aldava, Zack Brewer and Aldaba.
“They have all been huge for this program,” Hughes said. “Jake has started every game since he was a freshman, and Osiel was one of the big guys in our order and could hit anywhere in the field with power. Clay is one of the hardest-working and selfless kids I have ever coached, and you never doubt him — he always did his job.
“Andres did not get to play because of injury, but he has been a big part of this class and a reason for our success early on. Zack contributed greatly as our courtesy runner all season.”
Henderson, Brown and Aldava all raked in First Team awards in the conference and district, and Hughes said despite missing the 2020 season to COVID, the 2021 class has earned more than 100 wins in the fall and spring seasons over their careers.
Moving up the lineup will be two juniors and a class of seven sophomores, six of whom were starters for the Eagles.
“Those six sophomores got a lot of valuable experience, and the seniors played well all year long — you are never disappointed in a season with double-digit wins,” Hughes said. “We have high expectations for next year. Juniors Zach Henderson and Matthew Cornelius are coming back. Zach played right field and Matthew came off the bench and pinch-hit for us. We expect them to step into bigger leadership roles as seniors.
“The six sophomores becoming juniors will be a huge part of who we are. We will be an upperclassmen team and will have to play like it. We’ve already started the summer program and have the same expectations — to play at a high level and get ready for school ball.”
Stat-wise this season, Aldava led in hits with 39, RBI with 38 and batting average with a .513. Henderson had 31 hits, 21 RBI and a .419, and Brown had 31 hits, 17 RBI and a .388. Travis Hughes was second in RBI with 27 on 21 hits and a .339 average.
Ezequiel Garcia led the team in homers with 4, with Brown and Aldava knocking 3 each and Hughes smashing 2.
On the mound, Brown started eight games, posting a 4-3 record and one save. He allowed 33 hits, 15 earned runs and struck out 50 with an ERA of 2.838. Garcia started seven games, going 5-2 with 34 hits allowed, 17 earned runs and 49 Ks with an ERA of 3.159.
Alexis Aldaba and Aldava each started four games. Aldaba went 2-1 with 33 hits, 19 earned runs and 16 strikeouts with an ERA of 4.694, and Aldava was 3-1 with 16 hits, 5 earned runs and 18 Ks with a 1.479 ERA.