For the greater good: Without a season, Arabians look to future

Pendleton Heights’ Dalton Mollenkopf (3) fields a grounder at third base during their game against Greenfield-Central on May 3, 2019. By Rob Baker | For The Times-Post

PENDLETON — From its Twitter account, the Pendleton Heights baseball program sent out a message May 23, which would have been the date of the final regular season game of the 2020 season.

It wanted to let everyone know the Arabians finished the regular season with a lot of firsts and best-evers.

They were the first to finish the regular season undefeated. They had the lowest team ERA (0.00), ever. They had the fewest errors committed (0) ever, but they also had the lowest team batting average (.000) ever.

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They closed with the statement, “We know where we need to improve as a team next year!”

The adage you have to laugh to keep from crying applies here.

Nine senior baseball players were unable to have their final high school season, while the coach, Matt Vosburgh, was unable to have his first as a head coach.

Granted, they weren’t the only team in Indiana to have a season end before it started. It was the norm in the state and across much of the country in taking precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vosburgh has been part of the program for nine years; the first eight were as either an assistant or junior varsity coach.

It was a different feel for the first-time head coach this year. He admits some personal disappointment of not having his first year as a head coach, but, “I feel more disappointed for the players than myself,” he said. “I’ve been in the program a long time, and I’ll still have opportunities down the road, but it’s heartbreaking for the seniors.”

All nine would have been significant contributors this season, Vosburgh said.

He thought the team’s depth would be one of its strengths. He wasn’t sure who the starters were going to be and thought the inner competition for spots would lead to a very competitive team once the season started.

“Now, it’ll go down as a ‘You’ll never know,’” he said.

Kamden Earley, Luke Hargrave, Kirby Hess, Tommy Long, Ben Richards, Logan Mitchell, Dalton Mollenkopf, Nicholas Vetor and C.J. Williams were the nine seniors.

Earley, the team’s center fielder, plans on playing baseball and football at Wabash College (Crawfordsville). Williams will do the same at Manchester University (North Manchester). Both are NCAA Division III schools.

Williams and Hargrave were slated to be the team’s top two pitchers. Hargrave plans to go to Indiana State University and study pre-med. He wants to be an anesthesiologist.

“Last year, I remember watching (my senior) teammates have their last game,” Hargrave said. “I didn’t realize their last game was also my last game. I keep telling myself it’s for the greater good. It’s a bump in the road. We all have our whole future ahead of us, but it’s disappointing that all the hard work put in the offseason couldn’t be correlated with our season.”

Vosburgh said Mitchell’s, Hess’ and Richards’ future plans are undecided. Long plans to attend Ball State University. Vetor is heading to Ohio to learn to become an automobile mechanic. Mollenkopf is headed to Adrian College (an NCAA Division III college in Adrian, Michigan) and will be on the school’s bass fishing team.

With the addition of the school’s activity center, Vosburgh said his team had an extremely productive offseason, with the luxury of being able to conduct baseball drills inside.

“The heavy investment by the corporation, and not just in baseball, is going to show positives down the road,” Vosburgh said.

For this year’s group, Vosburgh said if COVID-19 regulations subside he’d like to have some type of senior night for the boys next month. Senior banners, with pictures of the players, have been made and are expected to be displayed in town.

Along with the nine seniors, the Arabians had 11 juniors on this season’s roster. So, they’ll have another big group of seniors for 2021, though they won’t have the experience of a typical senior class.

“Every program will have the same situation next year of having a lot of players that haven’t played in a varsity game,” Vosburgh added. “It’ll be a little bit of learning curve for everybody.”

Just add it to the list of firsts.