Some of us ‘experts’ were right about the Mustangs all along

Published 9:59 am Friday, June 5, 2015

Sometimes us aging sportswriters get things right even though a lot of folks out there are shady of the media’s opinion, whether it is the print media, television media or social media.
This spring, I’m proud to say I nailed something on the head and it’s about the West Orange-Stark baseball team.
I covered the Mustangs’ District 24-4A opener against Hardin-Jefferson. The Hawks waltzed right out of Ronnie Anderson Field with a 8-1 victory. I was scratching my head on that one and thinking about how this could be a long year for the Mustangs.
WO-S dropped a decision on the road to Hamshire-Fannett a week or so later and there they were, sitting at 1-3 in one of the most competitive districts in the state from top to bottom. I was definitely thinking right then that I was “very” afraid a long season was in store for these Mustangs.
That’s right folks, I got it “right” before a whole lot of people way back in late March and early April.
I think I deserve a trip to the Class 4A State Tournament this coming week for those bold thoughts.
Congratulations to the Mustangs and Coach Shea Landry after they took down a powerful Huffman team in three games in the 4A Region III Finals.
Three straight weeks the Mustangs (26-10) have found themselves down in a series after dropping Game Ones. It’s like they just flick the dust off their shoulders and have made those losses turn into ancient history as soon as their heads hit the pillows on those nights after the losses.
It takes a lot of sure will and character to bounce back from 2-0, 9-0 and 13-2 losses to come back and win a series. The Mustangs have made it a true art form and that’s a credit to the kids and the coaching staff.
When you look up and down the WO-S lineup there is plenty of athletic talent to go around and plenty of tradition in the bloodlines.
A lot of it starts with the three seniors that have started since they were freshmen.
The Anderson twins — Aidan and Grant — have been the rocks on the hill. Remember when they were young watching big brother Zane mow down the opposition when he was on the WO-S hill? Mr. Rod has got to be a proud Pop! Both of them have such a competitive edge when they are on the mound or at the plate. Grant’s bat has been the Mustangs’ biggest this year so it was awesome to see Aidan go 3-for-3 in the decisvie Game Three against Huffman.
Then there is Grant LaPoint-Teate. It’s so easy to root for the leadoff centerfield speedster. If he reaches on a single, it usually turns into a double cause he’s swiping second. So glad to see him play such a pivotal role in helping WO-S reach State after he had to watch the football team from the sidelines in Dallas at the football state title game after suffering a injury in the third week of the playoffs. After all, he had been the team’s leading rusher with over 1,000 yards. As opposing pitchers can attest, his speed his back.
Then you go to a couple underclassmen in junior Payton Robertson and sophomore Jack Dallas, whose WO-S baseball bloodlines run deep, dating back to the 1980s.
Payton’s father Roderick was a standout baseballer for legendary Mustang coach Ronnie Anderson and a pretty darn good quarterback and Payton’s uncle Andre has a World Championship ring for the New York Yankees and was a legendary West Orange Chief and Longhorn. Jack’s dad Tony could flat-out bring it on the hill for the Mustangs.
So, it’s easy to say that Robertson and Dallas know a little bit about the fundamentals of baseball.
Robertson has been dynamite in a small package in the No. 2 hole and his slick-fielding plays at shortstop in clutch moments has been amazing. When Robertson and LaPOint-Teate both get on, you just know something big is about to happen.
Dallas, can anyone remember a young man that has had a sophomore year like this one. All he has done this sports year is help lead the Mustangs to state in football as a quarterback who probably thought he was going to be the JV quarterback on June 6 last year. In the last three weeks, he’s calmly took the mound to capture victories in three straight Game Threes. Really folks, that makes me jealous!
I’m happy for senior Chase Rutledge. To see him bounce back this year and contribute to such a great team has been awesome. You don’t find too many competitors like Chase Rutledge. Whether it’s hitting long-range three-pointers in the gym to making clutch plays in the outfield, Rutledge can get it done.
Senior Kalen Garrett will continue to utilize his football-playing skills in college after a all-district campaign last fall but he’s proven that he can provide some pop at the plate in big situations. He’s been awesome on the basepaths as well, especially since the postseason started.
Sophomore Ryan Ragsdale, how can you grow so tall, so fast. He’s the third of the Ragsdale clan to come through the WO-S halls. He’s crawling out of his sisters Rebekah and Sarah’ s shadows, that’s for sure. After all, both of his sisters were all-district every year at WO-S for their dad and coach Randy Ragsdale and they were still making headlines in college. It was Ryan’s RBI sac fly in Game Three in the second inning Thursday that gave the Mustangs a 1-0 edge, which, in reality, was the game-winning run. Wonder how high Randy jumped after that one, especially with the surgically repaired knee.
I certainly can’t forget sophomore KJ Miller. KJ, he doesn’t play like a sophomore anymore. I felt like giving him junior status when he hit his first varsity home run in the playoff series against Bellville. I look at him and I see how much I’m starting to age. You see, I covered his dad Kent when he was the starting point guard for Coach Jan Jernberg at WO-S in the mid-1990s.
The coaching staff deserves a ton of credit as well.
Coach Landry has blossomed into an excellent manager of the game. I can’t call him a “young” coach anymore. Heck, he’s closing in on and moving into a new house. By the way, that has kept him very busy the last few weeks in the middle of this run.
There is no doubt Landry knows a thing about baseball. He grew up around the game as his father Terry kept him and brother Shon busy on little league fields for years and years. Then he played at LC-M for long-time coach Steve Griffith, who has amassed over 500 victories and learned even more. Then he gets to pick the brain of legendary WO-S coach Anderson and don’t think WO-S AD and head football coach Cornel Thompson doesn’t know a little bit about baseball either.
Great job Coach Landry, who I have a special bond with for being fans of the Duke Blue Devils basketball team. Our Blue Devils were national champs this year coach, is there some karma there?
Also want to give a shout out to assistant coach and pitching coach Stephen Westbrook, who I accidentally omitted in a column I wrote as the WO-S football team was heading to state in December.
Coach Westbrook, who one time was the head coach of Mustang baseball before moving away, you’re alive and well and a big reason why the Mustangs will get to visit Longhorn Country. It’s like you never left.
I bet fellow assistant Ryan Pickering can “second” that thought. Pickering brings a lot to the table as well, especially his chats with the kids in the huddle after big wins. I enjoy listening to that.
Hopefully these Mustangs have a couple more wins left in them. Just remember, you guys can’t drop Game One this week! Thanks for making the ending of the calendar sports season memorable.
Nothing like a nice bookend.
Football started it off in August and capped it with a trip to State and now baseball is doing the same. Maybe there is something in the water on Newton Street and I need a sip of it so I can feel younger!