Racers’ baseball team ready to go for 2020 season
The Newcastle Racers’ baseball team is coming off a superb season in 2019 when they went 24-12 and reached the Class 4A state semifinals. They lost to Harrah, 6-5, at Dale Mitchell Park on the campus of The University of Oklahoma.
So far, the Racers are 2-2 this year. They lost in extra innings at Chickasha, 2-1, last Monday. But, the Racers came back home and beat the Fighting Chicks, 8-1, the next day.
Newcastle lost to Heritage Hall, 9-8, last Saturday. On Monday, the Racers evened their record at 2-2 with a solid 6-1 victory at home.
Newcastle head coach Mike Crossley (who enters his 32nd year as the skipper for the Racers) has led his squad to seven state tournaments — 1991, ‘92, ‘93, ‘94, 2003, 2010, and last year. Though it’s still early in the season, Crossley sees good things to come for his bunch this season.
“The first couple of games, we played really good defense,” Crossley said. “Then, we didn’t play such good defense in our third game against Heritage Hall. In the first game, we didn’t swing the bats well (against Chickasha) but we did swing it well the last two games. That’s indicative of early season play and how we are erratic. But, I’m expecting us to have a good ball club this year.
“We’ve shown that we can be a good defensive team. We’re still moving people around and finding their niche. We got to get guys in the right place that is best for the team. It’s the same with the batting order and our pitching lineup. It’s all a process before we can be where we need to be for the playoffs. We just have to understand what we need to do at the plate, on the mound, and in the field.”
Newcastle is loaded with senior leadership this season. Jacob Bruns has moved from second base to shortstop because of his powerful arm from the hole. He provides a hefty bat.
Leadoff hitter and center fielder Jake Cox is a speedster who can chase down balls in the gap with ease. Kruz Vargas is the three-hole slugger who plays third base. Kale Crossley provides depth and power in the lineup.
Blake Sanders, Jason Wilson, and Jayson Lantis are also seniors who have played for Crossley and have been key performers in the past.
Adan “Peanut” Federico is the catcher who has excellent abilities behind the plate as well as power at the plate in the clean-up spot of the lineup. Ryan Barker, Connor Neeley, and Will Kates are also three ballplayers that Crossley is looking at to provide good things for the team this year.
“We do have a lot of seniors in the lineup this year,” Crossley said. “That can be a good thing for us, especially coming off the success that we had last year. They’ve played a lot of baseball together and we have an experienced team this year.
“We have Peanut behind the plate and Ryan Barker has gotten bigger and stronger. Conner Neeley pitched really well at Chickasha a week ago or so. We have some young guys, too. They’ll get bigger and stronger as the season progresses. Will Kates threw well at Heritage Hall the other day even though we didn’t get the victory. I was pleased with his outing. I think we have a good ball club.”
Last Saturday at Heritage Hall’s Stephenson Field, Kates tossed 3-2/3 innings and gave up five runs on five walks while striking out two Charger batters. He was victimized, though, by six Newcastle errors. Bruns had two hits and three runs scored. Federico provided three hits (including a triple). Vargas scored two runs after being hit by pitches twice.
Heritage Hall has three state championships to its credit (1999, 2015, and 2016.) They represent the kind of competition and schedule that Crossley likes for his club to play.
“It’s by design,” Crossley said. “I want to play those tough teams. I’ve said it a thousand times before - the only way to overcome adversity is to understand how do you go about it? We have to put ourselves in adverse situations over and over again. The players will get used to it. If you don’t approach it the right way, adversity will eat you up.
“But, if you learn to fight through adversity as a team, that will make you that much stronger. We did that last year and it got us into the state tournament. This team has a lot of seniors who have been put through the fire. I think they know how to fight through all the adverse situations. I’d like to think that we are going to have a pretty good team again this year!”
Newcastle played at Bridge Creek on Tuesday. After that, the Racers will entertain Harrah on March 20 (the first day of spring.)