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Ace in the hole

Baseball team looks to veteran players to fill gap left by injured pitcher

Last season as the baseball team entered the playoffs undefeated in district play, then-sophomore pitcher Rylan Hill began warming up and felt his arm tighten. His next pitch sent waves of pain through his arm. After following up with several doctors, it was determined that he had torn his UCL and would be out for at least a year.

This year’s team is looking to other players to help fill the gap left by Rylan’s absence on the mound.
“If Rylan hadn’t gotten hurt, he would’ve been our clear cut ace going into this season,” pitching coach Cody Wilson said. “Now, since he can’t pitch at all this year, we have to count on other guys to step up and take leadership roles in terms of who’s gonna be the ace of the pitching staff and finding another guy that’s gonna be able to start for us during district.”

While Rylan will not make an appearance on the mound this season, the team is looking for other ways to utilize his athletic skills.

“Right now I am cleared to hit, so I will be a designated hitter and just try to be a positive leader,” Rylan said. “If anything is ever going wrong, I want to help my teammates know that it’s okay and we can get out of it. I just want to help keep everybody in a positive state of mind.”

Since Rylan is already committed to play for Texas A&M upon graduating high school, the coaching staff wants to make sure that he is back to 100% before testing his arm.

“There’s potential that we could get him back to play first this season, but the likelihood of that is fairly low,” Wilson said. “We want to be careful with his throwing and we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize his future.”

With the depth of the bullpen last year, the team has several strong prospects that they are looking to this season.

“Senior Kaleb Gott got to pitch some last year,” Wilson said. “We had a really good pitching staff last year, the best of the district and one of better ones in the region. Kaleb didn’t get to pitch as much last season, but when he got to pitch he was ready. When Rylan had his injury, we had to talk to him and be like ‘Hey, you’re gonna have to be one of the guys to step up.’ And so far he’s done that.”

Other players have also recognized the need for them to step up when called on and plan to be ready at a moments notice.

“I normally play centerfield or anywhere in the outfield,” junior Chance Crawford said. “I pitch a little, but not too much. I might have to pitch a little more because Rylan is out, but we are all ready to fill in where needed and work toward being district champions again this season.”

Baseball is traditionally known as a mental sport where athletes will spend time in counseling to work through issues and break habits.

“Going through injuries is hard, especially when you can’t play a certain season, and you can’t do everything you know you can do,” Rylan said. “You have to really process that things happen for a reason and in the end it’s going to be better. Many high school, college, and major league guys face injuries or something else that has impacted them and made them struggle in some way. One of the most important ways to get back on the field is to have a mindset that I’m going to overcome this and get even better.”

Like any team sport, baseball requires the support of each person on the field and on the bench to be successful.

“The most important part of baseball is making sure that your teammates know that you support them,” Chance said. “It’s important for them to know that if something goes wrong, you have their back and will be there for them, because baseball can be both a team sport and also very individual.”

Though in many situations 30% would be considered a failure, baseball is different and can create a mental block because of what is considered the standard universally.

“I feel like baseball is more of a mental sport than it physical sport,” Wilson said. “If an athlete is batting and they fail 7/10 times and hit .300, they might go in the hall of fame playing professionally. Players have to be able to accept failure, or at least handle failure in a positive way in order to be successful. If you fail, you gotta be able to put that behind you and next batter up.”

Through it all, Rylan is working with his coaches and doctors to get back on the mound as quickly and as safely as possible, though it has not been an easy journey.

“There are some days where rehab kicks my butt a little bit, but other than that I’m just focused on coming back stronger and better than I was before I got hurt,” Rylan said. “That’s what motivates me to keep going.”

With the team behind Rylan and Rylan behind his team, they hope to come out on top and continue their success before Rylan comes back for the 2023-2024 season.

“I’m hoping to be back by the end of the summer,” Rylan said. “I am in no rush because I have plenty of time since I’m still a junior and have my whole senior year.”

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