Free flow loosens leash for Southridge to explore

Herald Sports Writer

DUBOIS — Dave Schank isn’t trying to be a buzzkill.

That’s something the gregarious coach with the grizzly stubs on his face stressed to himself when he returned to coach Southridge this season after a decadelong hiatus. When he looked at the ingredients that composed the Raider squad, Schank discerned that too much supervision, too much nit-picking, too much micromanaging just wouldn’t fly.

So he’s let the party rage on.


“I knew that coming in with this group that I was going to just have fun with it. Try to be young with them and have fun with them and make the game fun to where — I don’t want to be hollering at them the whole time,” Schank said.

“I just told myself coming back into (coaching), I’m not going to be that. I don’t always want to be the coach, the cop, the buzzkill. And there needs to be some rules. There needs to be some respect. There just doesn’t need to be so many rules.”

Much of the mindset correlates with the personalities that dot the Raider roster, which is by and large “a free, willy-nilly, loose bunch,” Schank said. “So just let them play the game. They really don’t need a coach most of the time.”

In a way, games become a scattering of self-taught lessons for the Raiders, who melded the instinctively savvy with the occasionally ill-advised during a 10-3 tear past host Northeast Dubois on Saturday.

C. Knies

Yet even amongst the Southridge contingent, there were some for which the free-spirited approach took some time getting accustomed to. William Gutgsell admits he fit into the category.

“I’m a little more uptight,” the senior said with a chuckle.

But as Gutgsell gathers, the total green-light approach Schank has enacted — from baserunning to first-pitch rips — has made him “a little bit more relaxed” and altogether “keeps the tension down” for Southridge (9-2), which has averaged seven runs per contest this season.

“We’re able to relax. And we don’t worry too much about it. If we mess up, everyone jokes around and we go back out there and we give it another go,” Gutgsell said. “It makes it fun. It makes you want to come and play every day.”

After the Raiders plated one run in the top of the third inning to scoot back ahead 3-2 Saturday, their laissez-faire flair came to the foreground. First, Jeremiah Mundy smacked a first-pitch single up the middle to score two. Next up, Chad Meyer ripped Jeep sophomore Cayden Knies’ first offering to third base, where it ricocheted off the third baseman’s glove, loading the bases for Gutgsell.

Four pitches later, the Raider senior launched the 2-1 pitch to the wall in left field to clear the bases. But itching for a triple, Gutgsell was thrown out at third, a couple steps from Schank in the coach’s box, to end the Raiders’ six-run deluge in the fourth frame.

Blasted for overaggressive baserunning, right?

“Don’t care,” Schank said after the game. “Doesn’t bother me at all. That was being aggressive. And if you’re going to preach being aggressive, then don’t yell at them when they’re being aggressive. And that’s my take. And the same thing at the plate. You want them to be aggressive at the plate. So when they go up there and hit the first pitch, hey, I’m the one that told you to be aggressive.”

The Raiders took it to heart, putting balls into play 17 times by the third pitch of an at-bat. Those include Luke Stetter’s triple in the first inning, which brought Connor Craig home, back-to-back singles by Jacob Brewer and Mundy in the third, Gutgsell’s base hit in the second and a single in the seventh by Gaage Fetter, who later came around for Southridge’s final run.

“He told us at the beginning of the year we were going to be aggressive,” Gutgsell said of Schank. “We try to be.”

Yet the boldness wasn’t contained from the Jeeps, either. Start with Knies. The sophomore hurled five innings, striking out four and tallying two outs in the fourth inning before Southridge claimed its six runs.

And what Jeep coach Brian Kirchoff found even more inspiring was that Knies didn’t submit. When some young pitchers may purposely limit their arsenal against a potent lineup, Knies delivered his full repertoire.

“That’s the thing: He didn’t back down. We told him he was throwing tonight and he said, ‘OK, I’m ready to go,’” Kirchoff said. “And he threw all his pitches. A lot of times you’ve got a kid who will get out there and that situation and be afraid to throw some of their other pitches and just throw fastballs all night. I thought he threw his changeup really well tonight and spotted it pretty well. … If we can get that kind of effort from him on the mound, that’s a big plus for us.”

In fact, the Jeeps (4-5) probably took more from Saturday’s loss than they did from Thursday’s 15-5 win over Wood Memorial, Kirchoff sensed. And while Northeast Dubois senior Cameron Riecker continued to be sidelined with a burst bursa sac in his knee, it’s provided more time for guys like Drew Jacob and Eric Dodson (two doubles, one RBI) to see more time.

“We’re going to get some other guys some good experience,” Kirchoff said. And I think in the long run, this is all going to work out and we’re going to be in a better position.”

Contact Joe Jasinski

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