By Michael Ourada – From multiple players scoring their first home runs to clutch victories against Norfolk and Omaha Central, the Links varsity baseball team proved they have that elusive trait that our school is so focused on: grit.
Coach Dan Beckman couldn’t express how proud he was of how the team performed for his first year as coach. “We’ve had three hour practices. . . there hasn’t been a day or practice where I have been disappointed in how we practiced or played,” Beckman mentioned in an interview, “They’re coachable, they’re willing to take criticism and apply it to get themselves better.”
However, the coach wasn’t the only one that was proud of the team. Cody Gilbertson, returning senior starter and the team’s primary catcher, agreed with the coach’s statement. “My favorite parts of the season were the practices,” Gilbertson said, “We have a great team chemistry, and had a fun time during the season.”
One of the best examples of this teamwork and perseverance was the first game of the season, against Omaha Central. Central had a 5-2 lead over the Links, but we rallied and brought it to a tie in the last innings, and securing the win in overtime. Beckman said that this match would last with him for a long time, achieving a clutch victory in the first match of his first season.
A very similar situation came across again, against Norfolk in late April. “We started out kinda flat, got down 2-0 in the first inning, so I kinda got on the guys to challenge them to step up and play better than what they were showing.” The Links rose to that challenge and ended up winning with a score of 13-8.
The coach wasn’t the only one to reach new milestones and achievements. Seniors Jake Evans and Wyatt Vivier, and Sophomore Bobby Mercier all hit home runs for the team. Junior Max Streckfuss got his first varsity victory for pitching. Senior Aundra Gilbert makes a difficult over-the-shoulder catch and stops Fremont in their tracks from a comeback.
Looking back at the year as a whole, Beckman commented about the seniors’ role in the team. “They have done an awesome job setting the example and living up to the expectations that I wanted. As a new coach it can be tough to do that, but they’ve led by example for these younger guys.”
With this sense of camaraderie, however, the prospect of losing the seniors is a concern to some of the other players. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do without them next year,” Junior De’Angelo Sommers explained, “They were kind of like my safety net when I was feeling down, I knew they could pick me and the rest of the team up.” Sommers continued to say that he was going to miss them, especially some of his close friends who were also on the team. “They were a big key to our offense and defense this year.”
While some players are concerned about next year, Beckman remains confident in the Links. “I’m very excited about the guys we’ll have coming back next year,” the coach enthusiastically pointed out, “We’ll have four returning pitcherrs that have a lot of experience and innings on the mound. Having four coming back in addition to all the guys on JV, we should be able to open a whole bunch of doors and take the team to a whole other level.”
“Not a lot of things I would do differently,” Beckman concluded, “and that’s a testament to the players and other coaches.”