varsity baseball looks forward to a full season of success

Photo by Steshka Willems on

Will Turboff ’22

On March 13, 2020, the UIL, the governing body for hundreds of school-sponsored athletic competitions, let out a statement that changed the lives of so many young athletes. The statement originally only postponed events until March 29, 2020, but as we know, the true volume and risk of COVID-19 was severely underestimated. While most sports were able to play full seasons, the Strake Jesuit Baseball teams played only a handful of games.

When asked what their first reaction to the cancellation of games by the UIL, current SJ players all look back on that time wondering what could have been. Senior Cameron Holy was disappointed. “We believed we would make it far into the playoffs and be one of the best teams Strake ever had,” he said.

Holy had a reason to believe that the 2020 team had a chance to go down as an all-time great team in SJ Athletics history. At the time that games were originally cancelled, the Crusaders were looking to keep their hot streak going with a win in an afternoon game against Clear Brook at Markle Steel Baseball Field. At that point, The Crusaders were dominating every one of their games, out scoring their first five opponents 51-4. The squad was led by pitcher Drew Leach, who now plays for Baylor University, as well as dual sport standout Dylan Campbell, who is expected to start at the collegiate level as an infielder for the Texas Longhorns alongside another former Crusader, Zach Zubia ‘16. Both Drew and Dylan, as well as the rest of the seniors on the team played their last high school game just days before in a tournament game against Edinburg on March 6th.

To say that it was a difficult offseason would be an understatement; countless postponements, Zoom meetings, home practices, and a whole lot of waiting are what the Crusaders had to deal with over the last 10 months.

“The biggest difficulty was definitely staying active,” current senior Scott Bartlet said. “It was hard to go out and work because a lot of places were closed for a while,” referring to city and state mandated shutdowns related to COVID-19. 

With Strake Jesuit starting the current school year in August with fully online classes, then moving to a hybrid model weeks later, offseason programs for sports like baseball were postponed. Junior Nick Sullo recalls in October meeting with the whole team in person for the first time since March, 2020. “I believe it was maybe the day it was okay to go to school fully,” he said.

Flash forward to January of 2021, The Crusaders have hit the ground running with team workouts, lifts, and full practices. The team is optimistic that they can keep up the momentum that they had nearly a year ago, even with some fresh faces. One of these belongs to junior Jake Vobbe, a Long Beach State commit who recently transferred to Strake Jesuit from Episcopal High School.

“Our junior class at Jesuit is extremely exciting,” Jake said. “We already have three Division 1 commits and others going through the recruiting process right now.”

Both Garrett Stratton and Trey Duffield will play for the Rice Owls after they graduate from SJ in 2022. Just like many of his teammates, Garrett has extremely high expectations for the Crusaders this year.

“We think we have what it takes to compete for a district title,” Garrett said, adding that the recent UIL change to which teams Jesuit plays during the season “doesn’t change our process. We’re excited to see some new teams, but the goal is the same.”. 

The Crusaders started their season with a scrimmage against Cy Fair on Saturday, February 6th at Markle Steel Baseball Field in front of a socially distanced crowd.

If you are unable to attend SJ athletic games this year, but would still like to catch the games from the comfort of your home, make sure to subscribe to SJET News on YouTube for all of the streams presented by the student-led Crusader Sports Network.