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Baseball notes: Douglass builds on success

Published May 7 at 5:35 p.m. | Last updated May 7 at 5:36 p.m.

Douglass catcher John Gardner had a decent vantage point from behind home plate to see the small group of students who watched his team sweep Medicine Lodge on Monday from a recently completed viewing deck beyond the Bulldogs’ left-field fence.

Athletes often hear about building something during their time in a program. Gardner, one of six seniors on Douglass’ 13-5 baseball team, has done his part in multiple ways.

Gardner is batting a team-best .414 with five home runs and 32 RBIs for the Bulldogs, who are No. 9 in the Class 3A state coaches rankings. Through a high school drafting class, the Butler Community College signee also assisted with the design of the modest wood deck, which was a collaborative project aided by community sponsors.

“Who knows?” Gardner said. “Maybe it can become like the Royals’ party porch.”

There has been plenty to cheer in the Bulldogs’ second season under coach Ty Unrau. After winning eight games last spring, Douglass opened this season 7-1 and has won five of its last six.

“The thing that we’ve got with this group is senior leaders, guys who have played three sports all through their careers,” said Unrau, also the school’s boys basketball coach. “This is their final ride together, and they have that sense of urgency. Their starting to realize this is it.”

The Bulldogs feature a veteran leadoff hitter in shortstop Chase Banister, who is batting .413 with 24 stolen bases. Another senior, Hunter Roberts, leads a deep pitching staff with a 4-1 record, 2.41 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Douglass has scored double-digit runs in nine of its victories, and is averaging 9.4 runs. But Unrau said this year’s team has benefited from more options on the mound. Senior Cody Holthaus (1-2, 1.26) rejoined the team after competing in track the last two seasons. Freshman Spencer Nethercot (3-0, 0.74) and junior Rip Fraley (1-1, 3.50) have also consumed innings.

“We’ve got about seven guys who can throw at any time,” Unrau said. “It gives us a lot more flexibility, and we can keep guys in certain positions on the field, which strengthens our defense.”

The Bulldogs created an early spark to their season with a doubleheader sweep over Independent. Losses to Trinity Academy cost them a shot at the Central Plains League title, but Douglass will soon turn its focus to a 3A regional that includes Bluestem — which split four games with the Bulldogs — and undefeated Humboldt.

“It seems like we’ve been playing together since recess at kindergarten,” Gardner said. “We’ve played all sports together at a little school. It’s a brotherhood kind of thing, and we’d like to go out and make a run at a state championship.”

Maize milestone – A doubleheader sweep at Newton on Tuesday allowed Maize to control its own destiny with two games to play in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division I race. It also gave Eagles coach Rocky Helm his 300th career victory.

Maize has planned an acknowledgement of Helm’s achievement prior to the Eagles’ home game against 5A’s No. 1 Bishop Carroll at 6 p.m. Friday. Helm, Maize’s coach since 1999, is 300-71 with three state titles. The Eagles, 12-5 this season, are No. 10 in 6A.

The Carroll-Maize game will also include a fundraiser for avid Eagles fan Chris Leon, who has been invited to compete in the Special Olympics USA Games next month in New Jersey. Donations to cover Leon’s expenses will be accepted in exchange for Snickers candy bars provided by Dillons.