Archive for Thursday, June 4, 2009

Basehor-Linwood baseball coach pleased with program’s progress

June 4, 2009

Basehor-Linwood coach Dave Svoboda has spoken repeatedly this season about taking the program to the next level.

With the season now over and players focused on summer baseball leagues, strength and conditioning for next fall and classes dismissed, Svoboda took time to discuss the season.

“We were much more consistent at the plate, got better starting pitching, and got meaningful wins in the league against some really good baseball teams,” Svoboda said. “We positioned ourselves for a successful 2010 season, and put a foundation for real growth into place.”

The team improved on its win totals and its overall quality of play. Players started to believe in themselves, factors which helped the team collectively reach the next level that Svoboda discussed throughout the season.

In other areas, the team continues to strive for excellence and seeks a league title and trip to the state tournament.

“We were in contention for the Kaw Valley League title heading into the last week of the regular season, and were two wins away from state, so we’re knocking on the door ... but not yet in the room,” he said.

Consistent play will be key in the team’s quest to qualify for the state tournament in future seasons.

“We were extremely consistent for nice stretches of this season, but we need to be that way over an entire year,” Svoboda said. “And that’s a mindset that starts with the seniors and trickles down.”

A few games stand out for Svoboda as highlights. The Bobcats dominated Santa Fe Trail, 16-0 and 18-2, in a doubleheader sweep. Every Basehor-Linwood player played in the games.

The team also had a nice victory on the road at Bonner Springs.

Those games were good wins, but a victory over Bishop Ward is the most memorable.

The Bobcats won the game 6-0 in early May. The victory came at home in front of a large crowd.

“To knock off the defending state champions, and to do so in a shutout on your own home field in front of a huge crowd was very, very exciting,” Svoboda said. “But our kids took it exactly as I wanted them to — as another ‘day at the office,’ though obviously, it was much bigger than that.”

The Bobcats also won a Class 4A regional game before losing to Bishop Ward in the semifinal game. Bishop Ward is perhaps the biggest obstacle standing between BLHS and a state trip, and the regular-season win should provide the Bobcats with confidence that they can compete against them in future seasons, Svoboda said.

Bishop Ward advanced to the Class 4A state tournament and lost in the semifinals to Topeka-Hayden, which won the state tournament.

Among other highlights was playing on a home field, which helped the team’s performance.

“We practiced better, we played better and we had a true home field advantage,” Svoboda said. “And our attendance was higher than it’s ever been for baseball at BLHS.”

Basehor-Linwood seniors led the team this season. Kyle Savner, Ben Zuk and Justin Gripka performed well as pitchers this season. The players combined for half of the team’s innings pitched and earned five of the team’s 12 victories.

The Bobcats return an exciting core of players for next season. The top six hitters in terms of batting and power potential return for the team in Austin Stubbs, Nathan Quigley, Brandon Leppke, Tyler Henley, Ryan Lawless and Dylan Belt.

“All return to anchor what should be the best offensive team we’ve had at BLHS since 2003,” Svoboda said.

Additionally, Jared Patton, Destry Bryan and Jeff Johnson all showed flashes this year on offense.

“This lineup has the potential to be a beast offensively,” Svoboda said.

On the mound, Henley returns with a team-best 0.97 ERA, a 5-1 record and was a first-team All-Kaw Valley League pitcher. He will lead a staff that will include Stubbs, Bryan, Lawless, Johnson and Patton.

“We think we have six really good ones,” Svoboda said of next year’s pitching staff. “The task will be to find numbers seven and eight.”

Svoboda is optimistic about the team next season.

“We look for continued growth in all areas, and a chance to continue to climb the ladder in the Kaw Valley.” Svoboda said. “It’s a very tough league with outstanding players and top coaches, so it will be a challenge — but it’s one we relish.”

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