Crusaders combine baseball teamsPublished 9:22pm Tuesday, April 10, 2012
By Titus Mohler
The composition of the First Baptist Christian varsity baseball program is different this year, but the team has thrived.
The program has only 16 players this year, which is not enough to sustain separate junior varsity and varsity teams. As a result, the teams were combined into one, and varsity coach Orel Schleeper has been joined by former JV coach Jeff Meyers.
“My son was old enough to play varsity if (Orel) needed him, which he does, so I decided I would go ahead and coach with Orel, so both of us know all the boys, pretty much,” Meyers said.
As of the end of last week, the merged Crusaders currently hold a record of 8-2.
“We’re pleased,” Schleeper said.
Certain games on the schedule are JV only, though the majority are for varsity. Out of the 16 players, 11 can play varsity and 10 can play JV. With that overlap, some players have extra opportunities.
As if the reconfiguration were not enough of a challenge to overcome, First Baptist does not have many older players.
“We’re young,” Schleeper said. “We’re really a young ‘varsity’ team.”
The team comprises two seniors, four juniors, a sophomore, two freshmen and two eighth-graders. The other five players play for the JV team.
Among the leaders on the team, the two seniors — centerfielder Josh Henderson and first baseman Matthew Walker — are standouts.
Through six games of calculated stats, Henderson has gone 11 for 22 with a .500 batting average, .770 slugging percentage and .780 on base percentage.
Both he and Walker are excellent at defense, as well.
Other particularly reliable players for the Crusaders include eighth-grade third-baseman Matthew Meyers, junior shortstop Travis Quigley and freshman second baseman Shawn Moose.
Henderson’s younger brother, Chris, an eighth grader, has also emerged as a key contributor.
The go-to pitchers for the team are Meyers and Quigley.
Entering the season, the coaches found it difficult to form expectations.
“We weren’t really sure of the competition we were playing,” Meyers said.
Teams like the Beach Breakers had been easy competition in the past, but not so this year.
“We started with the younger boys playing,” Meyers said. “We put in a lot of the JV boys to pitch and so forth, because we didn’t expect them to have the guns that they had. We only won by three runs. So, it was a pretty tough ball game.”
The other uncertainty was how well the young players on the Crusaders would respond to much more experienced competition.
“The first one, the first one we played, the opening game,” Schleeper said, “we went nine innings against Summit. We tied it three times, but they pulled it off.”
With a roster that included at least seven seniors, Summit won that game 4-3.
“We’re starting (two) eighth graders on a varsity team, but they’re holding their own,” Meyers said. “So that’s the thing; the guys have played really well together as a team.
“They have matured a lot since the beginning,” Schleeper said.
Both coaches agreed that while they may lose a couple more games, they like the chances of the Crusaders finishing with 75 percent of the season in the win column.