The La Center Wildcats finished their shortened 2021 baseball season in record-breaking fashion as they took home the 1A District title for the first time in school history after a 6-5 win over the King’s Way Christian Eagles on Tuesday, April 27.
Getting the Wildcat name on the trophy was a primary goal for the group of nine seniors on the team.
“When our first practice started eight weeks ago, our goal was to put the school name on the district trophy,” senior third baseman Riley Fender said.
An eight-week season isn’t typical for high school baseball. In a normal year, teams will play over the course of three months, starting in early March and vying for the district and state titles in mid-May.
Despite the shortened season, the group of seniors said they were extremely excited to get back on the diamond after not playing a single inning last year since the entire season was canceled due to COVID-19. La Center Head Coach Rick Skinner said missing out on the 2020 season was pretty tough as the Wildcat team had a strong group of seniors that never got to play.
Senior pitcher and right fielder Tom Lambert said the team’s junior season “might’ve been better than this year,” but the Wildcats never got the chance to prove it. Lambert also expressed sadness about the team not being able to “prove itself” this year at the state tournament.
“We were really bummed that we wouldn’t get to show the rest of the state what we could do,” he said.
Although the season ended earlier than players and coaches would have liked, Skinner said the team had incredible accomplishments this season, mentioning a 0.350 batting average “all around the board,” a number he has never seen in his 18 years of coaching high school baseball.
Along with the strong batting average, Skinner said the team pitched 135 strikeouts and just 30 walks, had an earned run average of “a little over two” and had only 13 unearned runs over the 16 games this year.
“For high school baseball that is just unheard of,” Skinner said.
Statistics were just one of the strong suits of the Wildcats this year as Skinner said the team put their best foot forward and everybody “played like a family.” He said kids on the team were “unselfish” and everyone rooted for one another no matter what.
Senior Irving Alvarez has been playing with Fender for nearly 12 years.
“It’s been really fun to watch this senior class grow over the last four years,” Fender said. “I think that the senior class set a really good example for what is to come.”
Coach Skinner said the future is bright for La Center baseball because the team has a strong group of juniors that will “keep the torch lit” and a powerful group of freshmen on the diamond. Although a bright future is on the horizon, Skinner said 2021 is a year for the history books.
“Everyone had one common goal this year and everyone was doing what they could to achieve it. I am so happy for the players and what they got to accomplish in their senior year,” Skinner said. “They achieved something that can never be taken away from them. They can never take away that billboard in the gym.”