Raiders hope to finish job this timeMarch 5, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG — Southridge baseball coach Gene Mattingly told the Herald last year after his Raiders lost the state championship game for the second year in a row that things are bright, but how bright depends on how hard the team works.
Practice begins March 16, but so far, so good, based on the offseason program and workouts. He estimated Tuesday’s workout had 22 people, and that was without the ones who also play basketball.
“The ones who we have are working hard,” Mattingly said. “I’m not sure if coaches ever think the kids are working hard as they can, but our guys are giving good effort. I think they understand the process that we’re three years into the way we do things and the process of which we try to develop players. They’re getting after it.”
The Raiders lost Joe LaGrange, Tucker Schank and Patrick Recker to graduation last year, but still return a loaded junior squad. Colson Montgomery is committed to join Schank at Indiana University. Camden Gasser is committed to the University of Michigan. Both Ethan Bell and Chase Taylor are committed to the University of Evansville. The third-year coach of the Raiders doesn’t think it’s anything about the culture of the baseball program, per se as much it is a testament to the community.
“It’s hard work,” he said. “It’s buying into a process. It’s learning how to compete early.”
Bell earned an all-Pocket Athletic Conference selection last year, along with Taylor, Schank, Montgomery and Gasser and he anchored the team’s pitching staff. Mattingly said Bell dealt with some lower back issues in the winter, but is finally getting back to where he can give the effort he’s asked to give.
He added Bell has a high upside, and that the Raiders could have as much as a six man rotation in 2020. Everybody is back. Bell and senior Weston Allen sat at the top of last year’s staff. Gasser and senior Wes Keusch served in relief, while sophomores Carter Whitehead and Carson Niehaus got some spot starts last year. Mattingly doesn’t envision this year being any different on that end.
People may know about the NCAA Division I commits, but there also lesser known players who could play a vital role for the 2020 Raiders. Mattingly touted a pair of juniors who are silent, but are also two of the team’s hardest workers.
“Quinn Barnett and Konner Thyen have been real impressive with their work,” Mattingly said. “What little bit of baseball stuff we’ve been able to do with the limited contact period, both look like they’re going to be vying for innings.”
Mattingly’s message to the team on that first day of practice and first game of the season is to execute.
“When they come first day of practice, whatever the practice plan is, their responsibility is to execute the plan, give 100 percent and try and get better than they were the day before,” he said.
He noted that the two state runner-up teams had tremendous leaders, and that’s something that the Raiders will need to have again this year. Mattingly’s biggest question isn’t who’s going to catch fly balls in the outfield, but who’s going to be the same type of leaders. They don’t have to be the same, but they will have to be the same type, to lead a group towards a common goal and hold those people accountable.
He said leaders have to be selfless in putting the team first. They have to do whatever it takes to help their teammates get better and help Southridge win. It doesn’t matter to him if someone leads by example, or both by example and as a verbal leader.
“They have to take the responsibility to hold their teammates accountable,” Mattingly said. “It shouldn’t always come from a coach.”
Mattingly added the Raiders will have to stay healthy in order to have the success they’ve seen the last two years. He noted the boys and girls basketball teams both got bit by the injury bug, but other than that, it’s just going out and playing.
The season begins April 1 at IU when the Raiders play two games. The first is against Martinsville and the second against Zionsville.
“Our guys are terrific,” he said. “They work their tails off. They’re good kids. Any success that we have is because of they do day in and day out. (The coaches) don’t get to pitch it, we don’t get to catch it and we don’t get to hit it. We just thank the guys for their effort.”
The bar hasn’t changed. The ultimate goal remains bringing a state championship back to Huntingburg, but the focus isn’t on wins and losses as much as it is approaching the process, how to attack it and get better every day.
“The bar that they should set for themselves is to be the best player that they can be and be the best teammate they can be,” Mattingly said. “The results, if we’re fortunate enough, if it’s in the cards, we’ll win our last game. If it’s not, we won’t.”
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