Upperclassmen set the pace for Horizon Honors baseball team
April 15, 2019 by Chris Lindsay, Arizona State University
At Horizon Honors secondary school, there is a pile of dirt near the entrance of the campus that will soon become a baseball field. As the baseball team anxiously awaits the completion of this construction project, they must place their attention elsewhere as they deal with other areas of uncertainty.
During the course of an up-and-down season, the Eagles' (9-9, 2-5) ability to remain focused is sparked by junior pitcher Stetler Huth and their four seniors.
First baseman Chris Hernandez, center fielder Dylan Hickey, shortstop Blake Benefiel, and second baseman Adam Mendoza help set the pace behind head coach Jay Curtis’ leadership.
The Eagles have plenty of talent. They play exceptionally well on defense but have run into a wall hitting the ball during the back half of the season. The coaches believe that regardless of their struggles, the team will continue to find a way to band together.
“Energy and intensity are what I try to bring to my coaching staff,” Curtis said.
One of the main reasons for their improved chemistry is a noticeable difference in the level of energy that this team has compared to the previous ones. According to Curtis, their seasoned players have been making a huge impact on the bullpen.
“They've been getting better at [bringing energy]. Last year it was new to them...they were just kind of sitting on their hands half the time,” Curtis said.
The veterans on the team take seriously their role of spreading a positive attitude and a healthy level of competitiveness.
“I try to keep everyone up at all times," Benefiel said. "It's kind of important at the shortstop position and even in the order, to make sure everyone's up on the fence and cheering on the team."
That comraderie is one of the main ingredients of their success. Mendoza, who’s tied for the team lead in runs, noticed the link between the club’s morale and their production.
“When we do stay with a strong mindset, we do really good out in the field, and offensively,” Mendoza said.
Energy can be expressed in different ways. Sometimes it’s being the loudest person on the field, other times it’s remaining unflustered in high-stress situations. Huth prefers to remain cool under pressure in order to get his teammates to follow suit.
“My teammates really look up to me for that, and it helps kind of ease any sort of negative emotions,” Huth said.
The team’s ability to come together during moments of adversity is something that separates good teams from the great ones. However, that isn’t always established from the beginning.
“I've definitely seen growth in terms of uniting as a team," Benefiel said. "I think that without a doubt, as soon as we get united we can beat teams that are super high ranked.”
This theory will be tested as the Eagles have four games remaining, two of which are against top-ranked opponents Valley Christian (17-2, 7-0) and Yuma Catholic (10-6,4-3).
“We've already played them twice. So we know we can win, it's just a matter of going and doing that,” Curtis said.