W-G skipper Evans reflects on district loss, future of program

W-G skipper Eric Evans (18) speaks with second baseman Marcus McConahay (3), shortstop Brady Aunspach (5), third baseman Matt Buch (14), first baseman Cole Theisen (27) pitcher Reese Jamison (right, rear) and catcher Colt Palmer during a non-conference game with CMB July 1.

GRANGER — The 2016 baseball season came to an end for Woodward-Granger in a 7-6 loss to Southeast Valley Tuesday in their Class 2A District 14 semifinal in Ogden. W-G grabbed an early lead, fell behind, and then came up just short in their attempt at a rally.

The Hawks finish 15-12 overall after a 12-6 mark in WCC play and lose four seniors.

“I told the team that there are four pillars to live by,” Hawk head coach Eric Evans said. “The first is to have heart, the second is to step up when called upon, the third is to be a team player and the fourth is to have fun. If you live by these in everyday life you will be successful.”

Evans said all four pillars were exemplified in the play of his seniors in Tuesday’s loss.

Center fielder and lead-off hitter Race Brant owns the school record for career hits, but had never hit a home run over the fence. He had hit inside-the-park home runs in consecutive at-bats at Woodward Academy early in the season, but managed to cap his career with a two-run shot that cleared the left field fence in Ogden and brought W-G to within a run, at 7-6. The dinger came in his last prep at-bat.

“Race Brant played with heart his whole career,” Evans said. “I’ve been around a lot of baseball and I’ve never seen a kid get a home run on his last at-bat, let alone his first career home run that left the yard.”

Seniors Jordan Pierce and Jackson Larson also observed Evans’ pillars.

“Jordan stepped up big with two big hits and two runs scored when his name was called,” the coach said. “Jackson was a team player by sacrifice bunting and wearing (being hit by) a pitch.”

Senior Ben Young was also on the squad this summer.

“Ben had fun because he came out for his senior season and made a lot of friends through the game of baseball,” Evans noted. “He became a part of something bigger than himself.”

While the losses of Brant, Pierce and Larson will certainly be felt in the everyday lineup, the Hawks appear to be positioned nicely for the future. W-G will return over 150 innings of pitching and will have three players back who hit over .300 and another who hit .297.

Evans noted those numbers but also issued a warning to his squad.

“We can’t fake ourselves out in June and July,” he said. “You have to be competitive year-round by playing all sports and lifting weights.

“If you feel pressure you are unprepared,” Evans continued. “I think if we mentally and physically get stronger, with the ability we have and as young as we are, we have a bright future ahead of us.”

The Hawks were third in conference play behind a powerful and talented Van Meter squad and a solid and experienced Des Moines Christian unit. However, both will lose substantial numbers next year, and, at least on paper, W-G looks positioned to make a move, although Evans was quick to temper any expectations.

“If we don’t work at our game we won’t automatically get better,” he said. “We have to have a burning desire and the whole team has to have that desire to encourage and motivate all 52 guys (we had out) on the squad to achieve our goals.”

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