The dust never settles on the mound for East baseball – as May dwells on and players anticipate upcoming regionals, resiliency remains monumental, according to head coach Adam O’Reel and senior Nathan Rudd.
Not all the games have been perfect, but “pretty much every time we bounce back the next game or the game after. Next time [we’re] out on the field, we [find] that competitive drive again,” Rudd said.
As of May 11, the team’s record is 16-10. Their record around late April last year was 5-12, according to O’Reel, who also serves as the PE division chair.
Following last year’s state win, the athletes said they have faced more pressure.
Junior Brady Louck said, “Now that we’re definitely capable of winning [state] and we’ve done it before, now I feel like the team’s expected to win almost every single game, and go back to state.”
Rudd said, East is now a “big red circle” on other team’s schedules due to their reigning champion status.
“With us being defending state champions, the other schools that are playing us, they’re always putting out their best player versus us. They’re always trying their hardest when they’re playing us,” senior Christian Mitchelle said.
To ease the pressure because of last year’s state championship, O’Reel makes sure members know the current team is not last year’s team.
“Other people may have expectations because you win and then everyone thinks ‘Well, you’re just going to come out and do it again.’ We lost players last year. We brought in some players this year. That dynamic doesn’t all of the sudden make this happen again,” O’Reel said.
The team has had to work harder this year to form connections and “learn new faces,” as last year’s group “gelled more and knew each other more,” O’Reel said.
With the change in dynamics, returning member’s experience at state helps strengthen leadership.
“We had leadership last year. This year, I think our leadership coupled with the seniors and Brady’s experience in the state run helps us expand our leadership more towards the younger guys and help build more of a winning culture in this program,” Rudd said.
Louck said the program goal every year is to win a regional, but the team wants to go past regionals and beyond.
Mitchelle said, to win state, “it’s going to take a little bit, but I feel like we can.”
East’s IHSA regional games begin May 23. Game times and locations have not yet been announced.
Louck said, “If we can do it last year, we can do it this year too.”