To say Nixa’s trip to the baseball final four this week is a long time coming is an understatement.
The Eagles are in the state semifinals for the first time since 1974.
“It’s been a lot of fun, this group has been exciting all year,” said Nixa Head Coach Logan Hughes.
“Really been a dream – we fell short last year and wanted to come back and make history,” said junior Rylan Michel.
In order to make more history, the Eagles will stick to what’s worked this season.
“Honestly, that’s how we’ve gotten to this point offensively is our speed,” Hughes said.
Michel is one that coach Logan Hughes looks at for speed.
“Just having him [Rylan] at the top of our lineup, him, Wyatt [Vincent], and Caeden Cloud all three of those guys can really run,” Hughes said. “When you can run you just have to put the ball in play. When you have speed, it just puts pressure on people and it makes people play faster than they are comfortable with,” Hughes said.
Rylan has the team’s best batting average at .397 and gets on base in nearly half of his at-bats.
On defense, the Eagles rely on a young arm in sophomore Colin Kelley.
“Colin was really good out of the bullpen in our district championship game, and then he came and did the exact same thing in our quarterfinal game,” Hughes added.
Coming out of the bullpen shows Colin’s versatility.
“I’ve been a starter all year. I haven’t come out of the bullpen once but I haven’t started one game in the postseason,” Colin said.
“It’s awesome that he can start a game, come in whenever, and throw whenever we need him,” Michel added.
“He’s got that dog mentality out there like “I’m not going to lose,’” said Nixa senior Tanner Grant.
Grant is a big reason this team hasn’t lost in almost a month.
“He’s always just been our energy guy. He’s that guy that brings it every day no matter what,” Hughes said.
Tanner brought energy in the state quarterfinal when he drove in the game-winning runs.
“We’ve had a lot of leadership step up. He’s always wanted to be in that role and he’s taken it really well,” Rylan said.
Tanner likes what his team is doing, leading into the biggest games of the year.
“We’re just clicking on all levels. Offense, defense, pitching it’s what it is going to take to win a state championship,” Tanner said.
Nixa will face Liberty North on Friday in the Class 6 semifinals.