Raiders taking season in stride

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Southridge junior Carter Whitehead smiles before stepping up to the plate during a recent practice in Huntingburg. The Raiders held an intersquad scrimmage.


HUNTINGBURG — As he trots onto the diamond, Gene Mattingly embraces the responsibility of leading Southridge’s baseball team. The past year cast a cloud of uncertainty over high school sports, but the head coach’s optimism and enthusiasm offer beacons of hope.

Mattingly’s encouraging words about confidence and belief fill Southridge baseball practices at Huntingburg’s historic League Stadium. He holds the Raiders in high esteem and admires Southridge’s holistic culture.

“They’re good young men,” Mattingly said. “It’s just the way they carry themselves in school and how they treat each other. It’s just different.”

As many as four senior Raiders could play Division I baseball. Chase Taylor and Ethan Bell have signed to continue their careers at the University of Evansville, Colson Montgomery is committed to Indiana University and Camden Gasser has signed to play for the University of Michigan. Mattingly highlighted the experience that seniors Sam Sermersheim, Kaleb Wibbeler, Quinn Barnett and Konner Thyen bring to the field.

“It’s an extra-special group of athletes in that senior class,” Mattingly said.

The seniors will play prominent roles, but Southridge’s freshmen, sophomores and juniors provide untapped potential. Leaders could emerge from anywhere in the group.

Ultimately, the Raiders aim to play their best baseball in May.

“There’s going to be quite a bit of competition,” Mattingly said. “I think that’s what I’m looking forward to most after missing a year of development, especially for our sophomore class. They’re basically second-year freshmen. They didn’t get a season. They didn’t get a year of, ‘This is how we do things. This is how we handle ourselves. These are our expectations when we put the uniform on and when we take it off.’ ”

Southridge claimed Class 2A runner-up finishes in the 2018 and 2019 state tournaments, and moved to Class 3A this year. Because the Raiders are accustomed to playing multiple sports, they build the foundations for their success in the weight room. According to Mattingly, mobility and agility workouts take priority over pure strength.

The unseen hours can give the Raiders an edge over their competition. Mattingly said that five or six teams could take the Pocket Athletic Conference title in an expanded conference this year.

“There’s a lot of talent,” he said. “It’s going to be a great conference. If you win the PAC this year, you’re going to be able to look back and go, ‘Man, that was tough. That was a great accomplishment.’ ”

Mattingly described himself as a “big fan of young people who put in the work.” Student-athletes earn his respect when they commit themselves to positive causes. In turn, athletics assist the Raiders assemble the building blocks for their futures.

“They’re working on discipline, accountability, loving each other and playing for each other,” Mattingly said. “I think that carries on throughout the school year.”

Mattingly supports the Raiders during their respective fall and winter seasons, but the baseball campaign has officially arrived. Southridge will play a 6 p.m. game Tuesday evening at Jeffersonville.

“We play for each other, but there’s a bigger picture in the community that really supports us tremendously,” Mattingly said.

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