Baseball team ready for redemption

AJ Forbes, Sports Editor

After a promising 22-7 2016 season for the Bellevue West baseball team, the spring ended with disappointment as the Thunderbirds failed to reach the state tournament. It has been a long 39 years since a baseball state championship banner was raised at Bellevue West. The 2017 team is looking to break that streak.

“In every sport, the worst way to lose a game is to beat yourself,” senior outfielder Kenny Allred said. “We were unable to finish it off and it has stuck with us ever since.”

Combined with stellar pitching and the mentality to get every base possible on every hit, the Thunderbirds were in the state title conversation all last year. That same formula will be used in order to supply the same success.

“We are fortunate to have a good staff coming back this year,” head coach Jason Shockey said. “We’ve implemented a new style of base-running this year that should help our players be that much more aggressive and run the bases with confidence. We’ve got some guys this year that I think will drive the ball in the gap and be threats at the plate.

There are a number of returning standouts ready to make a run for the state title. Senior pitcher Cam Taylor led the state in strikeouts last spring and during the summer league. Fellow senior pitcher CJ Hlavac led the state in wins with an 11-0 record while junior pitcher Micah Savine came out with a respectful eight wins.

The Thunderbirds’ “aggressive base-running” was exemplified in Kenny Allred. The senior outfielder was among the top five in the state leaders in stolen bases during the spring with 23.

“My top goal is to bring a state title back to Bellevue West for my guys,” Allred said. “After breaking [the school record for stolen bases], I definitely believe that I can lead the state this year.”

The sting of a disappointing end to last season has become a coal in the fire that is burning for a state title in 2017.

“It showed us that we can’t be complacent,” Taylor said. “We have to compete with the same intensity from the start of the season to the end.”

The relationship that Shockey has developed with his players has established a culture where the boys are not just playing baseball; they are playing for each other.

“Many of our players have bought into the selfless mindset,” Shockey said. “The bond we’ve made will go a long way not only on the baseball field, but in life in general. I love my guys!”

That selfless mindset just might take the Thunderbirds to their first state title in 39 years.

“I would definitely like to see myself make All-State,” Taylor said. “But if it came down to it, I’d rather share a nice dogpile with my guys at Werner.”