LAPEL — Lapel baseball head coach Matt Campbell and his team recognized the possibility during early season workouts that COVID-19 might affect part of their season. The reality was much worse.
“When it did happen,” Campbell said, “we were at a loss for what to say. We were heartbroken.”
Not only would the Bulldogs miss the much-anticipated season, but senior players would miss so much more.
“As a coach, I really understood they’re going to miss every ‘one last time,’ and that cut deep,” he said.
Six senior Bulldogs will graduate without that final time on the field, but their legacy will remain a part of the Bulldog story.
Along with pitching duties, Cannon Bledsoe was part of the changing outfield. At left field, Bledsoe and teammate outfielder David Rebenack were changing the Bulldog reputation. Campbell said for whatever reason, the Bulldogs had not had the best track record in the outfield.
“Last season, these two went a long way to solidify our outfield,” Campbell said.
He said the duo had the ability to really read balls, a strong work ethic and so many other skills, they were transforming the field.
“They believed in themselves, and that was a huge reason,” Campbell said.
Also, Rebenack pitched many Bulldog innings. “He could throw strikes, keeping the ball low,” said Campbell. “You knew he was going to do what you want a pitcher to do.”
Colton Shirley had battled injuries throughout his career but this season would have been healthy. “He would have been so much fun to watch,” Campbell said. “Especially at the plate. He was always making contact.”
According to Campbell, Shirley always helped out at kids’ camp. “He was so great to have at camp because he really understands the game. He has so much knowledge.”
Max Stern had never played high school baseball, but as soon as football season was over, Stern went to work in the weight room and off-season conditioning. Campbell said Stern never missed a day in the weight room, conditioning or early season workouts. “He had the right attitude and mindset. It’s heartbreaking for me to see how he would have helped this team,” Campbell said.
Campbell was excited for the return of Cade Carpenter to the Bulldog lineup this season. Campbell said Carpenter was one of the more athletic players he knew. “He has such great footwork and hands so smooth on the mound. It’s disappointing not to be able to watch.”
While Thunder Davis was a man of all positions, he primarily played third base and pitched. Campbell said from his sophomore year, Davis could be called at any time to play wherever he was needed. “He’s smart on the field and could play those positions with confidence,” Campbell said.
Davis has memories for a lifetime with the Bulldogs. “The guys have felt like another family to me. We went through a lot together,” Davis said. This team had made it to two previous county and sectional championship games but came up short.
“We had a real good shot at both this year, but COVID-19 ruined that,” Davis said.
One of Davis’ most memorable moments is when some of his teammates left their gloves and those gloves found their way up on the flag pole in left field.
He plans on playing summer ball and attending Adrian College in Michigan.
As devastating as COVID-19 has been to the sports world, it has not defeated the Bulldogs.
Campbell said sports teaches life lessons.
“It teaches them to stick together through the hard times, and it will pay off in the end.”
Campbell has no worries about the futures of the senior athletes who did not get their senior season.