Wolverine baseball earns accoladesPublished 5:46pm Monday, June 25, 2012
The Wolverine baseball team never satiates its hunger for another win or a better season.
“I don’t think we’re ever satisfied,” said Head Coach Ty Stott. “I don’t think our team would accept finishing third or fourth again – it’s all about raising the bar.”
Escalating that standard meant completing the team’s sixth winning season in a row this year and nabbing top honors in the Western Highland Conference (WHC).
The WHC named pitcher Roberto Taft as its baseball Player of the Year, while Stott was named Baseball Coach of the Year.
“It’s always a boost for the program to get those awards – you don’t get coach of the year or player of the year unless you’ve had a really good season,” Stott said. “Roberto really deserved it because without him we couldn’t have finished first. He and Joel Booker both provided a lot of leadership this year.”
Stott said Taft’s best games of the season were against the Wolverine’s toughest opponent of the season – Mountain Heritage. In the two team’s second matchup, Taft allowed only three hits and struck out Mountain Heritage’s pitcher on a change up.
Stott said Taft’s strength lies in his pitching diversity and hunger for the game.
“Roberto can throw a fastball, change up and curve – all for strikes; it’s rare to find a pitcher that can do that consistently,” Stott said. “Being just such a competitor on the mound doesn’t hurt either. He wants and expects the ball.”
Stott said getting strong pitchers on the mound also boosts a team’s confidence tremendously. Brandon Jolley was another solid pitcher who came through the program, capturing 27 winning games. The school record before that season was 16.
“I think we do a good job of knowing who can help us and in what position they can help us,” Stott said.
Polk County boasts the most players selected to the All-Conference team this year with five. Mountain Heritage had four chosen. Wolverine players selected include seniors Booker and Tyler Ridings, juniors Alec Philpott and Dylan Turner and freshman Bryce Martin.
“When you have kids [past players] like Andre Overholt and Jim Ollis who a lot of younger kids want to be like, that doesn’t hurt,” he said. “Kids notice when you are winning conference championships and getting All-State players every year. They want to be part of a winning program.”
Stott began coaching the Wolverines 17 years ago.
In 1999, his fourth year coaching, Stott and his team pulled off a winning season – one of the first in school history. In 2000 the team captured its first conference championship.
The team repeated conference wins in 2007, 2009, 2010 and its latest this season. The Wolverines also made it to the third round of state playoffs in 2007, 2009 and 2010. They made it as far as the fourth round in 2008.
“Making baseball important is what it took. There was a time when it wasn’t the in thing to do – now people want to be a part of our program. It comes from winning and it comes from tradition,” Stott said. “We’ve got a group of kids right now that really want to play baseball.”
Coach Stott has led the Wolverines to 95 wins out of the last 129 games.
The longevity of a coaching staff also puts the team in a viable position to build on success. One thing it allows is for the coach to really get to know opposing teams.
Polk has been in the WHC for seven years, giving Wolverine coaches an understanding of who can knock even the best fastball out of the park and who plays aggressively on the bases, for example.
Stott said he’s looking down the line into seventh, eighth and ninth grade where he can see pitchers, catchers and other strong players coming up.
To keep those players determined to win, he said he and the Wolverine staff try to do things with the players that he never had as a young player. The players all get their own batting helmets and there’s even a winning game T-shirt given to the standout player after any win. Stott said these things may seem small but they build a program – a winning one.