Daves left Jasper to become ace for ChargersJune 8, 2020
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
Pike Central came very close to knocking off the top two ranked teams to win the 2006 Class 3A baseball sectional tournament, and that was largely thanks to Bo Daves.
Daves helped the Chargers upset No. 2 Vincennes Lincoln in the semifinals of that year’s sectional. He notched the final six outs to preserve an 8-3 win against the Alices.
All he had to do now was go out to the hill in the sectional championship against the top-ranked team in the state, and against his former teammates and coaches at Jasper.
Daves grew up in Pike County, playing Little League with his future high school teammates. He was a Wildcat, though, for his first two years of high school. Daves played junior varsity as a freshman and was part of a sectional championship as a sophomore.
He transferred to Pike Central for his junior year, and felt the biggest difference between the two programs was conditioning.
“Jasper, it was really intense, it was really hard,” Daves said. “Over there, you got so many kids going out for the team. A good way to weed them out is through conditioning, which it definitely did. And over at Pike Central … whoever shows up, that’s pretty much who you’re going to have. They didn’t have the history that Jasper had. We cut a few people, but it wasn’t anywhere close to what Jasper did.
“We still conditioned pretty hard over there, but in reference to what we did in my freshman and sophomore year at Jasper, it wasn’t anything close,” he continued.
Daves was trying to help the Chargers to their first sectional baseball championship since 1989. He took a 6-1 record with a 2.60 ERA into the 2005 sectional, only for Daves and the Chargers to lose, 7-0, to the Wildcats, with Pike Central committing four errors. The Chargers finished his junior year at 13-15.
This time, it wouldn’t be that easy. Pike Central met Jasper in the 2006 championship game. The Wildcats owned a 29-1 record, but the Chargers were improved record-wise at 16-10 after their upset of the Alices.
Daves wielded different pitches in his repertoire. He threw a fastball — both four-seam and two-seam — a curveball, changeup and developed a slider his senior year. His fastball could range in the upper-80s to low-90s in velocity. The changeup was usually in the low 70s, while his curveball sat around the upper-70s.
He used that curveball to his advantage that night. Jasper had zero answers for him, and couldn’t get a base knock against the senior.
“As a pitcher, you try not to think about that, and then, the whole team, of course the dugout was … ‘Don’t say anything! Don’t say anything!’” Daves said. “We didn’t really talk about it, but we just kept trying to get a run on the board.”
That right there was the problem Daves and the Chargers had that night. Jasper held a 1-0 lead thanks to a pair of errors Pike Central committed behind Daves. He shut the Wildcats down, but Jasper’s pitchers did the same to Pike Central.
The Wildcats sent J.T. Steftenagel to the mound for the championship, and he mowed down the Chargers to the tune of 12 strikeouts. He managed to lower his ERA to 0.49 in that game.
Daves already was a star on the mound that evening, and here was his chance to be a star at the plate. Adam Klatka came on in relief for Steftenagel with one out in the seventh inning. The tying run was at third base, and the go-ahead was at second with two outs when Daves came to the plate.
In the end, he struck out. Jasper won the game, and eventually the state championship. Pike Central’s 1989 sectional championship remains its only one.
“I was ready,” he said. “I knew it was my game. I knew I had to do something at this point. Having retrospect on it, I knew they weren’t going to give me anything, but honestly, I pressed a little too hard on some pitches.
“I was thinking, ‘Okay, he’s going to throw me outside, like usual, and I have to get a hit,’ was my whole thinking, and I think that got to my head a little bit during that at-bat, because obviously, I didn’t make some great decisions that at-bat,” Daves later said.
It did sting for him to know the Wildcats took state, but he was happy for them. That game hardly ended his baseball days, though. He continued to play at Oakland City University. Daves transferred to the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), but he redshirted there, and transferred to Indiana University Southeast to finish his playing days.
He’s also made appearances for the Jasper Reds through the years. One notable outing came May 31, 2011, when he pitched a nine-inning complete game against the Dubois County Bombers in the midst of the heat to give the Reds a 2-1 win.
“I got to about, gosh, I want to say the fifth inning, and I was like, ‘Bob (Alles), I think I’m done,’” he told the Reds business manager. “‘It’s too hot. I feel like I’m going to pass out,’ and he just asked me, he was like, ‘Well, can you give me one more [inning]?’ I was like, ‘All right, all right. I’ll give you one more,’ and then I think I went out, had a real quick inning, shut them down and then I come back in, and he’s like, ‘Can you give me one more?’ Eventually, I finally, I guess got hydrated enough to really pull it out.”
Daves remembers being drenched in sweat and that he could barely move, but he went after the Bombers that day just like he went after Jasper in 2006.
He also toed the rubber on July 30, 2018, when the Reds competed in the Bluegrass World Series at Louisville Slugger Field against the Louisville Stars, a team of former Major League Baseball players. Such former players included Johnny Damon, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Corky Miller and J.D. Drew.
The Stars won, 5-0. Daves allowed four earned runs. He remembers how daunting it was to see himself pitted against former major league starter Jason Marquis.
“Right before that first pitch, I was okay, it was just another game, and ‘Now up to bat, Johnny Damon,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’” Daves said with a laugh. “I still went after him. The first pitch I threw and he smashed it. It was foul, but he smashed it down and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is going to be a long day or a short day, maybe.’”
Miller took him deep for a two-run shot. He recalls trying to sneak a fastball past him, but he didn’t fool him.
He was an assistant coach at Wood Memorial under Lukas Messmer, and Daves was supposed to be the head coach this year until COVID-19 forced the cancellation of that. Next year is now scheduled to be his first season as head coach of the Trojans.
Daves likened his motto to rowing a boat. He looked at the lack of experience his players have, and the staff has tried to get them up to speed.
He appreciates how much his players were trying with a desire to be part of a team, though. Daves wants them to know it’s okay to fail, since batting .300 means being out seven of 10 times, and he likes the staff he has with him.
“It’s been fun — frustrating at times, but fun nonetheless,” he said.
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