THS baseball players join forces with league rivals on A’s
It didn’t take much — just matching uniforms, really — to turn a few area baseball enemies into friends.
A few months ago, they were league rivals. But this summer the baseball players on the A’s are working together to win games at tournaments and college showcase events throughout Kansas.
Some of the best players in the Kaw Valley League — from Tonganoxie High, Basehor-Linwood, Bonner Springs and Lansing — comprise the A’s roster, and even though they are foes in the KVL, the versatile and talented group has enjoyed working as teammates.
Tonganoxie’s Dylan Caywood, Ethan Lorance and Ben Williams are just three components of the A’s 11-man roster, which is managed by TJ Burgess. And the coach said all of the players get along really well.
Considering THS usually wants to beat its KVL rivals, a little good-natured trash talk comes from time to time. Other than that, the Chieftains are just having fun with Basehor-Linwood’s Jared Patton and Nathan Quigley, Bonner Springs’ Dalton Vitt, Lansing’s Parker Gibson, Zach Haller, Scott Moore and Tyler Parson and Nate Keegan of non-league Spring Hill.
Said Caywood: “We talk a lot of crap to each other but when it comes down to it, we’re still a team. We just go out and try to win every game.”
The A’s have found plenty of wins this summer, most recently finishing third at a state tournament this weekend in Lenexa. One of the season’s highlights thus far was a trip to the Wichita Shockers College Showcase Classic June 17-20, when, Burgess said, the A’s went 2-2 and scored more than 30 runs in four outings.
“That shows me that we’re really pounding the baseball,” the coach said. “That’s what I enjoy most — watching the boys hit — because they all can, every single one of them.”
Gibson leads the team in batting average but the A’s three Tonganoxie players have been just as important to the team’s offensive production, which Burgess said is distributed pretty evenly through the lineup. Lorance, who pitches and plays shortstop, bats third, Caywood, the team’s center fielder, bats sixth, and Williams, a utility player who also throws some middle relief, usually hits sixth, seventh or eighth in an 11-player lineup which allows everyone to bat.
Lorance said the lineup packs some punch and the A’s have shown solid chemistry this season.
“We pretty much all get along and we know how to get the job done,” he said.
That comes easy, Caywood added, with such a gifted group of players.
“It’s one of the most talented teams I’ve ever been a part of,” the speedy center fielder said, “just raw baseball talent.”
Caywood, who recently signed with Cloud County Community College, said one of the benefits of playing on the team is the exposure the prep players receive. There are scouts at every tournament and just this weekend University of Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn watched one of their games.
For a younger guy, such as Williams, who is still growing as a player and will be a junior this year at THS, the experience is extremely valuable. Not only have he and Lorance got a chance to bond and grow more confident, he said, but they get to face a lot of quality pitching and get a ton of reps.
“Overall, I think my game’s been helped a lot by playing on this team,” Williams said. “The pitching I’m seeing is exactly like what we’re gonna see at school — or even better.”
Williams said one of the most important lessons he and Lorance have learned with the A’s is that attitude and mentality are big parts of success. He said the Chieftains often lacked the proper mindset this past spring, when they finished ninth in the KVL, and they hope to change that next season.
“We know we can play at a high level and we just need to bring that next year and maybe it will reflect on the other guys,” Williams said.
By then, the members of the A’s won’t be as congenial when they see each other on the diamond.