Talk about consistency. Not even Coronavirus could derail Southridge baseball's third straight trip to the state title game. And a quality quartet of seniors is a big reason why.
"Whatever lore or legacy these guys are remembered for, guess what? It's not enough, because they've worked their tails off," said Southridge head coach Gene Mattingly.
A semi-state three-peat, that's what Southridge's core four of seniors have accomplished in their four years in Raider uniforms. is a legacy any baseball team would be proud of. It all begins with shortstop Colson Montgomery. A starter since he stepped on the diamond at League Stadium, the slugger has had to deal with being one of the most sought after high school players by Major League Baseball scouts.
"He's had a lot of different pressures on him that a lot of kids his age don't have the luxury of having," said Mattingly. "This might be the only practice where there's not ten or 15 scouts in the stand. That's every day, we walk out of that dugout and they're sitting along the 3rd baseline. Every game we go to, they're everywhere."
"It has a lot to do with my family and also with Gene," said Montgomery. "He helps out with a lot of things because there's lots of time where they've been contacting me with things that he could have been answering. I talked to him about that, and he was like "let me take care of it". My only job is to go out there, have fun and play the game. It's my senior year. I shouldn't have to worry about texting these guys when and where to be."
Montgomery's partner in crime on the left side of the infield, third baseman Camden Gasser, maybe having an even better year, this despite playing most of the season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder.
"He's had the best single high school season I've ever seen, in every aspect of the game," said Mattingly. "I'm not sure how many records he has set this year. We'll look back and he would have had, statistically, the best season in Southridge history. And he does it 100 percent all out, as hard as he can go."
"It's been kind of difficult," said Gasser. "A lot of ups and downs. Tearing my labrum. Had to deal with that for a little bit. But just wanted to finish out my career out Southridge on top Just trying to grind through it and I'll figure out that stuff at the end of the season."
However, a baseball team can't make it far in the postseason without a top notch battery and the Raiders have a dynamic duo, beginning with ace hurler Ethan Bell, who has started every meaningful game for Southridge this season.
"A workhorse, right? "Just give me the ball, let me eat up innings"," said Mattingly. "He's been great on the mound, as usual, but he's been amazing for us at the plate and defensively as well."
"It's been hard at times," said Bell, "but with my defense behind me, it makes it easy to throw strikes. I don't have to worry about hitting spots too much. Just throw strikes, put the ball in play and they'll do the work for me."
And finally on the receiving end of most of Bell's pitches has been Chase Taylor. A veteran catcher, who has overcome a catastrophic football injury to reclaim his spot as one of the most integral cogs in the Raiders championship machine.
"He tore his knee up in the semi-state game against Danville," said Mattingly. "So, he goes through the surgery. We go through the winter with rehab, but not a lot of conditioning. Especially playing catcher, coming back from a knee injury, you have to mentally get past the "what if" and it took him a little bit. But, he might be playing as good as any one we have right now."