Baldwin Thunder continues to roll
The Kansas City Royals may be a disappointment this year, but thankfully there is another home team to root for. And unlike the Royals, they are very much in contention.
The 13 and 14 year olds that make up the Baldwin Thunder baseball team are turning heads with their winning ways.
Playing in the always-competitive Heinrich League in Lawrence, the Thunder has cruised to an 18-2 overall record for the season, and a perfect 7-0 interleague record against Holcomb division foes.
The only losses for the Thunder have both came at the hands of their rivals, the Durham Bulls.
After coming out on top in the first meeting between the two teams, the Thunder went on to drop the next two face-offs with the Bulls, dropping them into second place in the league.
The Thunder will have a chance to even the series Thursday. A win would tie them with the Bulls for the league lead.
Thunder manager Rick Weaver knows that there are many different ingredients that make up a winning formula.
"We've had three pitchers share the work and do a good job throughout the summer," Weaver said. "Jacob Enick has done a solid job behind the plate. Aaron Karlin has made some nice catches in the outfield and our other outfielders have come up with some good plays from time to time."
While quick to praise the pitchers and outfield, Weaver also shed some limelight on his infield.
"Our infield is a bit on the ugly side, but somehow the guys have managed to knock down a few balls and throw some people out," Weaver said. "While we don't always make the smoothest plays, we can put an infield out there that can eat with any 13 and 14 year old infield in the country."
Every winning team needs a solid group of coaches to guide the way. Besides Weaver, the Thunder's staff consists of first base coach Dale Enick and third base coach Greg Schwartz. Keeping the book and the stats for the team is Frank Foye.
"We're lucky to have Dale and Greg coach the team. They're pretty busy guys trying to balance work responsibilities and also follow the teams of their other kids," Weaver said. "Dale is even coaching a youth basketball squad during the summer. I basically fill out the line-up card the same way each game and call the parents if there is a rain out while Dave and Greg do the work."
A team can have the best coaching in the world, but to win consistently, it still needs talent. Luckily for the Thunder, they have more than enough of that.
Zach Durr, Kevin Hightree and Derek Lederer form a dominant trio of pitchers. Each has at least five wins, and are a driving force in the teams success. Hightree and Lederer's performances helped them earn spots in the league All-Star game, along with teammate Dan Glover, who earned his way into the elite showcase as a utility player.
Pitching isn't the only reason for the teams success, though.
The Thunder hitters have lived up to their team nickname, creating plenty of cracks and booms with their bats while hitting nine home runs so far in the season.
Despite missing the first eight games of the season with a knee injury, Luke Weaver has led the way with five homers. Jacob Enick has contributed three and Aaron Karlin added one.
Weaver knows that kids are busy during the summer, and has been pleased with his players dedication to the team.
"We've got kids who are playing summer basketball, going to football camps, lifting weights, taking driver's education, and even going on some family camping trips and vacations," Weaver said. "With only 11 kids on the team we've had to scramble at times, but it's been a fun season with some interesting moments."
The Thunder's season promises to get a whole lot more interesting in the coming weeks, when the team finishes its regular season and enters the year-end tournament to play for the league title. The tournament will take place July 24-26.