VYPE U: Strake Jesuit Baseball looks to start 2021 with a bang
On March 13th, 2020, The UIL, the governing body for hundreds of school-sponsored athletic competitions, let out a statement that changed the lives of so many young athletes. The statement originally postponed athletic events until March 29, 2020, but as we know, the true volume and risk of COVID-19 was severely underestimated. While most sports were able to play full seasons, the Strake Jesuit Baseball team only played a handful of games.
When asked what their first reaction was to the cancellation of games by the UIL, current SJ players all look back on that time wondering what could have been. Senior Cameron Holy said that he was disappointed because "we believed we would make it far into the playoffs and be one of the best teams Strake ever had.".
Holy had a reason to believe that the 2020 team had a chance to go down as an all-time great team in SJ Athletics history. At the time that games were originally canceled, the Crusaders were looking to keep their hot streak going with a win in an afternoon game against Clear Brook at Markle Steel Baseball Field. At that point, The Crusaders were dominating every single one of their games, outscoring their first five opponents 51-4. The squad was led by pitcher Drew Leach, who now plays for the University of Baylor, as well as dual-sport standout Dylan Campbell, who is expected to start at the collegiate level as an infielder for the Texas Longhorns alongside another former Crusader, Zach Zubia '16. Both Drew and Dylan, as well as the rest of the seniors on the team, played their last high school game just days before in a tournament game against Edinburg on March 6th.
To say that it was a difficult offseason would be an understatement; countless postponements, Zoom meetings, home practices, and a whole lot of waiting is what the Crusaders had to deal with over the course of the last 10 months. Senior Connor Bartlett said "The biggest difficulty was definitely staying active. It was hard to go out and work because a lot of places were closed for a while…", referring to city and state-mandated shutdowns related to COVID-19.
While Strake Jesuit started their school year in August with fully online classes, and then eventually to a hybrid model weeks later, offseason programs for sports like baseball were still postponed until further notice. Junior Nick Sullo recalls the first time he remembered meeting with the entire team in person since March, saying "I believe it was a few days or maybe the day that Strake [Jesuit administrators] said it was okay to go to school fully", that was in late October.
Flash forward to now, January 2021, the Crusaders have hit the ground running with team workouts, lifts, and full practices. The team is optimistic that they can keep up the momentum that they had nearly a year ago, even with some fresh faces. One of those fresh faces is Junior Jake Vobbe, a Long Beach State commit who recently transferred from Episcopal High School. Right when he joined the team, Jake realized how great of a group he was joining, especially the teammates that are also in the Class of 2022, as he said "Our junior class at Jesuit is extremely exciting. We have guys all over the board. We already have 3 Division I commits and others going through the recruiting process right now.".
As Jake noted, he is not the only college committed player on the team. Both Garrett Stratton and Trey Duffield will play for the Rice Owls after they graduate from SJ in 2022. Just like many of his teammates, Garrett has extremely high expectations for the Crusaders this year, as he said "We think we have what it takes to compete for a district title.". He also recognizes that the recent UIL realignment changes who they play during the season, but he says that it "...doesn't change our process. We're excited to see some new teams, but the goal is the same.".
The Crusaders will start their season off with a scrimmage against Cy Fair on Saturday, February 6th at Markle Steel Baseball Field in front of a socially distanced crowd. If you are unable to attend SJ athletic games this year, but would still like to catch the games from the comfort of your home, make sure to subscribe to SJET News on YouTube for all of the streams presented by student-led Crusader Sports Network.