It’s a moment that’s still fresh in the minds of the Bishop Heelan baseball team, a wild pitch scores the winning run in the 2018 state semifinals, and Heelan falls to Assumption 2-1.
“Well I think it’s motivation, that’s as close as you can get to the state championship game without getting to the state title game,’ said Head Coach Andy Osborne. “So the returning juniors and seniors that were a part of that team are motivated, they know the expectation doesn’t change.”
Now, it’s the beginning of a new season, and the Crusaders are losing eight players from last year’s state squad, but Osborne isn’t concerned.
“You know, we had a JV program that was extremely successful as well and that was stocked with sophomores that were waiting for their chance to get on the field,” Osborne said. “These kids have been working for three to four years at this point, so they’re ready to roll.”
The lone returning position player is Mike Pithan. The senior shortstop is readily accepting his newfound role as a leader on the team.
“It’s nice having the experience from last year on a successful club and I think a lot of the position guys look at me for that experience this year,” said Pithan. “But I’m excited to work with these guys, they’re all really excited to play this year and it’ll be fun.”
But regardless of the players who make up the team, the goal is still the same.
“All these guys strive to do the same thing as last year and get to Principal Park again,” Pithan said.
“I think we’re gonna do better if not about the same as last year because these kids have been waiting for their turn for the past couple years now,” said senior pitcher T.J. Chamberlain.
“We expect to compete for a state title, we expect to be in the conference race,” Osborne said. “I think we have the talent to do both of those things if we build off of the success of the previous years. This group can be special.”
With a new young core and state veterans leading the way, Coach Osborne hopes to take the Crusaders to another state tournament.