Throwing out last year's lost season of COVID, the Southridge baseball team is searching for a semi-state 3-peat this weekend, as well as redemption.
"Just gritty," said Southridge senior infielder/pitcher Camden Gasser. "Just blue collar guys working their butts off every day, trying to win games."
"We go all out," said Southridge senior infielder Colson Montgomery. "We play our hearts out. We 're all very prideful too."
"We battle," said Southridge senior pitcher Ethan Bell. "We aren't going to give up. We work hard every day. We put everything into it."
And that is no idle talk. In four years, the Southridge baseball team has ground it's way to two state title games and now a semi-state. This past weekend's regional semifinal win over Silver Lake, a 2-1 eleven inning affair was a prime example of Raider relentlessness and resolve.
"Against a really, really good team, they just found a way to win," said Southridge head coach Gene Mattingly. "We talk a lot about that, because we know it's never going to be easy, and they're willing to put in the effort, willing to put in the time and the blood, sweat and tears. It's fun to watch when they're just grinding it out, because you have the feeling they're eventually going to get it done."
However, amid the Raiders recent success has been tinged with heartbreak and disappoint. In 2018, a feverish rally in the final inning of the state title came up one run short in a 5-4 loss to Boone Grove. Then a year later, with the trophy all but in their hands, Alexandria-Monroe wrested the championship away from Southridge, 4-3. Needless to say, both losses serve as motivation.
"It's a big motivation, not only sophomore year, but freshman year," said Gasser. "Definitely been in the back of our minds. Motivated us through every sport just to come out here one last time, senior year, try to get it done."
"It's all driven us to be the best we can be," said Montgomery, "and it's also driven all these young guys to play their hearts out for us seniors, because it's our last time."
The Raiders are also playing for former teammates, a group of seniors, who were denied their chance at redemption last season, due to Coronavirus.
"It was out of the blue too," said Bell. "No one saw it coming, so it hit like a truck with us. We were practicing and stuff. The next day it was like "hey the season's over".
"It was a sick feeling, basically," said Mattingly. "To have guys, who I think, who could probably be in this position again, with an opportunity to go back and give it another shot, that didn't get a chance. We had a really good group of seniors last year that didn't get a chance."
However, one opponent stands in Southridge's return to Indianapolis' Victory Field, Brebeuf Jesuit and their junior ace pitcher Andrew Dutkanych, who has given up less than a run per game this season.
"He's going to be 93 to 96 on the bump, with an 83 mile an hour change up and an 84 mile an hour curve ball," said Mattingly. "Look at the Cardinals pitching rotation and his measureables probably slot in there somewhere. But I think we're capable of grinding out at-bats, and finding away to score enough runs."
"We're all going to have to be on our "A" game in at-bats," said Montgomery. "We can't let them have anything easy."
"We know it's going to be a challenge," said Gasser. "We're facing a really good arm. We're facing a really good team. You don't make it to semi-state for no reason. But we also know we have a good team, so if we play well, we think we have a good shot."