Striking out and saying goodbye

The Spartans varsity baseball team had a disappointing season, and with only a few games left, hopes were fading fast. On Thursday, Central faced off against Hazelwood West on senior night. In a game that was hard fought to the point of going into extra innings, the Spartans ultimately fell 8-6 in heartbreaking loss. For the seniors, it was their final home game of the regular season, and with the loss, the odds were against Central to perform well as they entered the District tournament.

On Saturday, Central faced off against Fort Zumwalt East in the first matchup of the District tournament. The Spartans took advantage of playing at home and in good weather conditions and pulled off the 6-4 victory to advance in Districts. That game, however, would be the last game they would win for the season.

Monday, the baseball team wanted to prove once and for all they meant business when it mattered most. Unfortunately for them, they had to face off against Zumwalt West, who were 19-9 entering the game, and had already defeated Central twice in a row during the bottom half of the season. As for Howell Central, once again, the Jaguars would pounce and inevitably end the Spartans’ disappointing season.

In the bottom of the 4th, all tied at one, Zumwalt West tacked on two more runs, gaining a 3-1 lead. Despite committing three errors, Zumwalt West held on, and while allowing seven hits, still pulled off the 4-2 victory to advance to the finals, eventually beating Howell North to become District champions.

Senior Clayton Luley struggled, striking out only one, while allowing four runs on seven hits, and walking four as well.

Junior Mitch Miller performed well for Central, scoring a run while corralling three hits.

Senior Roger Robinson believed that the team had the talent to go far this year, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

“Overall it was a bit of a struggle and disappointment,” Robinson said. He added, “We lost some close games that we could have won, and we had some untimely injuries.”

The Spartans had some bright flashes of glory during the season, but ultimately, they struggled to maintain momentum, finishing with a losing record, and were forced to succumb to the mercy rule against rival Howell twice.

Senior Austin Pierce, shared Robinson’s disappointment in the team’s lack of winning consistently throughout the season, and says senior Ryan Howard’s injury hurt them dearly.

“We had a pretty devastating injury with Howard going down early, and after that we just couldn’t seem to streak some wins together,” Pierce said.

To Pierce, lacking a winning record was disappointing, but losing in Districts was much worse.

“[The loss] was disappointing because we played pretty well, but we just couldn’t seem to get runs across,” Pierce said.

Another senior, Blake Wellinghoff, who has been on the baseball team since freshman year, wishes his last year could’ve gone much better than it did. Wellinghoff, however, seemed a bit more optimistic about how they performed.

“I thought we started to play better all around baseball at the end of the season but we definitely underachieved throughout,” Wellinghoff said.

Wellinghoff believed at the end of the year, the team had bright moments, but throughout the season, critical losses hurt them overall.

“Our best moment was winning our first game of districts and the worst was probably losing all the games that we had a lead in the last inning,” Wellinghoff explained.

For the seniors, it was a wild ride over the years. And Robinson and Pierce couldn’t have been more grateful to endure that ride with their fellow classmates.

“[I] wouldn’t have wanted to spend those four years with anyone else,” Pierce said.

Robinson had some encouragement for his fellow seniors.

“I’ve played with most of them my entire career, I wish them the best of luck in their future,” Robinson said.

For another senior, baseball isn’t just a game, it’s his life. For senior Ryan Howard, whose career ended during the middle of this year and is about to undergo surgery, has gone the distance with Wellinghoff playing all four years, and he says his team is his family for life.

“They are my boys for life. And I wish them the best in the rest of their careers and in life,” Howard proudly said.

For Central’s baseball team, the season was sub-par. As for their underclassmen teammates, the JV squad had an amazing season, and things certainly look bright for the future. As for the seniors, they will hang up their high school cleats, turn their shoulders away from the diamond, and say goodbye to Don Muench Memorial Stadium, having played their final game of the season. But they finished their careers the same way they started: as a family. A chapter may have ended, but the book is still not finished, not by a long shot.