With a predominantly new line-up, the baseball team prepares for their 2021 season. According to assistant Varsity coach, Timothy Ebarb, a state championship is the team’s motivation this season.
“Our expectation every year is to play for a state championship. It’s kind of the culture we’ve established in baseball,” Ebarb said, “We’ve worked really hard and put ourselves in a good position. If everything goes as we’ve hoped for it to go, we hope to play at Baum Stadium again this year.”
The team expects to live up to expectations from the past, according to senior Tommy Hudson.
“The major team goal is to get another ring,” Hudson said.
In order to achieve this goal, the team must defeat this year’s rival.
“This season I would say the biggest rival is probably Bentonville,” senior Tommy Hudson said.
According to senior Kyle Kozak, not only is the team pushing for the ring, but they are also pushing to get in better shape as a whole.
“I‘d say that one of the biggest goals this season has been to get stronger as a team. So far this year we’ve been working out three days a week as a team with Coach Thompson and it has really been paying off,” Kozak said.
According to Ebarb, he and his fellow coaches have high expectations for the players this year.
“We have a lot of good pitching and also this team works really hard. We’ve demanded a lot of them. I’ve been here almost twelve years and this is the most difficult season and preseason that we’ve ever went through,” Ebarb said. “We see the potential in this team and we as coaches don’t want to do anything that would not maximize our potential.”
According to Hudson, the team balances out their advanced pitching with a strong offense as well. However, according to Kozak, ability isn’t the team’s only strength.
“I’d say the team’s biggest strength would be our attitudes. We pick eachother up when we’re down and are constantly looking for ways to improve as a team,” Kozak said.
Junior Clark Jenkins claims the team has great teamwork.
“We all get along very well and we all just have one mindset,” Jenkins said.
According to Kozak, the players aim for redemption as their season was stripped from them last year due to COVID-19 complications.
“We are often reminded of the seniors from last year whose season was cut short, so that really motivates us to continue what they started,” Kozak said.
According to Coach Ebarb, COVID-19 caused a timeout in the teams’ state championship streak.
“It cost us our season last year and it was really disappointing because we had been at the state championship three years in a row,” Ebarb said. “We had great expectations of going four years in a row. For one or two of our guys that would’ve been the opportunity to play at Baum four years in a row. You don’t get any better than that.”
According to Coach Ebarb, because of the cancelled 2020 season, the upperclassmen are anxious to get back to playing games. However, the one consistency from last year is the team will be unable to travel to play during spring break as they typically do each year.
“Most years we go on a spring break trip and play baseball somewhere cool. However, due to COVID this year we will not be able to do that,” Hudson said.
According to Coach Ebarb, the annual trip is less of a vacation and more of a challenge for the team that they will unfortunately not be able to attend this year.
“We have a nationally recognized team and we want to play against other nationally recognized teams to get exposure for those guys,” Ebarb said.
After losing a majority of the 2020 varsity seniors, the team is pushing to live up to the legacy this season. According to Hudson, almost all positions are being filled by someone who was not a varsity player last year. Coach Ebarb claims the inexperience is one challenge this season.
“My concern is that we have a lot of talent, but we don’t have a lot of [varsity] experience, so that’s a big uncertainty with this team,” Ebarb said. “We’re as talented as anybody else, but until you see them do it on the field you just don’t know what you’ve got.
Overall, the team is going into the season with high expectations regardless of their inexperience.
“I’m excited going into this year with a lot of newcomers,” Hudson said. “I think it’s going to be interesting how it turns out.”