From the Press Box: So much to salute in Perry

Opinion and Insight

The Observant Reader will, no doubt, have long since ceased to wonder if further dispatches would be forthcoming From the Press Box, and so might be wondering what has motivated a sudden return to publication.

The answers, Dear O.R. are many, and follow, in no particular order.

A Grand Club: I was pleased to be there June 8 when Perry’s Emma Olejniczak reached the 1,000 career strikeout plateau. By my own best count, I have seen six pitchers on teams I have covered over many, many summers reach the 100-win level, but can recall only four, prior to Emma, reaching the 1K K mark.

East Marshall’s Halie Stalzer (124-34), West Marshall’s Cindy Smith (124-50) and BCLUW’s Ashley Krause (109-36) all did it during a magical summer of 2003, eight years after Shawna Burns — who missed a year to injury — finished 100-15 for East Marshall.

Perry’s Emma Olejniczak throws strike one to Ballard’s Bella Johnson Thursday as Gabby West catches. Three pitches later Olejniczak would record the 1,000th strikeout of her career.

Olejniczak, as of games played through June 10, is at 1,034 career K’s and is 76-62 with two saves in her career, so she has reached the strikeout mark while playing on teams not as proficient as the other young ladies.

She was second in 4A in total strikeouts each of the last two years and leads the class this season with 156 K’s against only 15 walks issued. Opponents have stepped into the batter’s box 389 times so far, meaning there is a 40 percent chance any given trip will result in a strikeout, and that has been fun to watch.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Emma’s classmate and good friend, Brooke Huntington, who has been behind the plate each of the last three years. Brooke was dinged on the helmet by a foul tip at Greene County June 6 and hopefully will return to her spot soon.

Plenty of kicks: If a good time is a “kick,” then the Perry boys and girls soccer teams gave this writer a great many in a pair of outstanding seasons this spring.

The Perry players and coaches pose with the Class 2A Fourth Place trophy June 3 at Cownie Park in Des Moines. Photo submitted.

Head coaches Gary Overla (boys) and Gilmar Guerra (girls) are cementing Perry as, if not yet a powerhouse, then certainly as one of the better schools playing 2A soccer.

The Bluejays placed fourth at the state tourney and featured a school-record 28 goals this season by senior Jesus Rodriguez, who broke older brother Osvaldo’s record of 27 with the double-overtime game-winner in the quarterfinals. Jesus finishes with the PHS mark of 67 total goals and was part of a senior class that finished second at state as freshmen, returned to the quarterfinals as sophomores and finished fourth in the final prep season. Not a bad four-year run, and one which scores of schools would like any part of.

The state quarterfinal with Winterset will go down in my mind as the most thrilling, well-played boys soccer match I have had the honor to witness. Both teams were simply outstanding, and the exaltation of the Perry players was a thrill to behold.

The Perry girls have been stopped one game shy of the state tourney for two consecutive seasons, but with a host of talent returning, do not bet against the Jayettes taking the next step next spring.

The Jayettes were stopped in the regional finals for the second consecutive season. It is often the case that a team has to step to the line a few times before taking the big leap, and with all sorts of talent returning, do not be surprised to find the Perry girls playing at Cownie Park.

And, if the heralded underclassmen on the boys roster can step up to the varsity level and receive a little help from a few returning starters, it is a solid bet the Jayettes will be a state only a week after the Bluejays, as the Perry boys are not going away anytime soon.

The Ol’ Skipper: Veteran Perry baseball head coach Mike Long is currently spending his 40th summer guiding the Bluejays. As of games played June 10, Long is 708-396 (.641), all at Perry.

Mike Long is spending his 40th summer as head coach for Perry.

He led the Jays to second place in 1987, ’91 and ’98 and took his ’99, 2002 and ’04 teams to the state tournament as well.

A movement is underway to pack Progressive Field with fans and former players for the Wednesday, June 28 game against Bondurant-Farrar. Organizers are hoping to have at least one member from each graduating class on hand.

Wouldn’t that be something to see? I hope the word spreads like fire — what a testament to the impact Long has had and to the community spirit of Perry if a huge crowd turned out, flooding the PAC with blue and saluting the skipper, whom scores of men now in their 50s still call “coach.”




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