The Will to Win
Richland’s Coach Jacobs has high expectations for his baseball team.
Written by Stephen Johnston
s I waited in the office, students hurried to and from classrooms. Baseball season was quietly coming around the corner as it seems to do every year. The Super Bowl has ended and thoughts of sports drift to springtime, specifically baseball.
I had not waited very long when Ben Jacobs came to greet me, and it was a very interesting visit. The excitement surrounding the coming baseball season was easy to pick up on. This year certainly holds exciting prospects for the Richland club. Not only will they have a chance to snatch another title, but the big game will be played at GESA Stadium in Pasco.
“It would be a disappointment to not reach the final four at least,” says Jacobs. One could see why by looking at this team. Although Richland has lost quite a few players, they still command a respectable group of seniors. Victor Weitz, Corey Morris, Dilan Klute, Conner Moore, Dalton Johnson and Tyler Fuller will all lead this year’s club. Not to mention, they have a recent history of success in the tournament.
Last year they finished third. The year before last they finished second and the year before that they finished first. They also won it all at Safeco Field in 2007 (pictures proudly displayed in the coach’s office covering almost every inch of the walls). There is no doubt that the seniors would love to go out on top. “GESA Stadium is no Safeco, but it would be special to play at home,” says Klute.
Overall, this culminates into five straight final fours for the ball club. However, repeating this success will not be easy. Jacobs is aware of the target on their backs. Similar to any sport where one team has dominated the landscape, the opponents (and the media) put you on a pedestal. “Walla Walla celebrated for around 10 minutes after they beat us last year,” recalls Jacobs, who was also quick to point them out as one of their biggest rivals. Don’t worry, Davis and Wenatchee, Jacobs remembers you as well, although he holds much respect for these clubs. Klute added Kamiakin to that list. It is never easy to repeat success despite the preparation put in or how good a team looks on paper.
Still, there is a quiet confidence about this team. Speaking with both Jacobs and senior starter Dilan Klute (OF/1B/pitcher) resulted in more or less the same attitude (team chemistry evidently solid). I pressed Jacobs to name an MVP of the team and he could not, hinting that everyone must hold their own on the team. “Newcomers have to play like seniors,” said Jacobs. Klute was a little bolder saying, “Critics say we won’t be as good as last year—don’t underestimate us,” but he did admit there is some pressure to reach their goals given all their recent success. However, I got the impression from both that Corey Morris would have a big impact on the team’s success this year (Morris’s name came up more than a few times during the visit).
Klute is looking for a big year as well. His personal goals for the season include winning the state title, having a good personal season, and maintaining team chemistry. Klute hinted that team chemistry was a problem last year that was quietly corrected behind the scenes. However, he did mention that “we are a lot closer than previous years.” I got the impression he wanted to move on from that and focus on the season. Fortunately, he has a good backing with his teammates and Corey Morris, whom he has known since he was nine years old. “Morris is the natural leader of the team. If you were ever around practice you would see Morris makes it fun and brings the team together,” says Klute.
Whether or not all of this camaraderie and team chemistry will lead to wins remains to be seen. The good news for Richland is that they have as good a chance as ever to claim another title this season. They still maintain a strong core of upperclassmen, and Jacobs has bestowed a winning mindset on the team. Spring training starts at the end of February.