By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Cole Slibowski and Ike Book enjoyed their time playing together at Phil Welch Stadium as members of the Lafayette baseball team.
Little did they know, just two years later, they'd be teammates again. On the same field. In the same town. As members of the St. Joseph Mustangs.
"Oh, it's crazy," said Slibowski, who's the starting shortstop this summer. "We always played with each other for as long as we can remember. So, just to be able to do it one more time, we'll have a blast with it."
They're having a blast, and also blasting the ball into play consistently. Both Book and Slibowski are batting north of .300, combining for 18 runs and 24 hits through the first 15 games.
After a 1-4 start, Book says the team learned to play together, and the Mustangs' fortunes changed, as they reeled off four straight wins in mid-June and found themselves at 9-6 by June 23.
"It's been a ton of fun for everyone," said Book, who plays college ball at Lincoln Trail College in Illinois. "Just to play baseball, especially with last year being tough with COVID. We definitely started off a little slower than we wanted, but we know the talent we have on this team, and we're going to start picking it up a little bit."
As St. Joseph natives, both Book and Slibowski know the value that the Mustangs bring to the community each summer since their inaugural season in 2009.
"For as long as it's been here, all of the people come out," said Slibowski, who will continue his college baseball career at nearby Northwest Missouri State next season. "There's 2-3,000 (fans) per night. Nothing gets better than that."
While Book and Slibowski are well into their college careers, they were also quite invested in their high school alma mater's recent success.
The two closely followed Lafayette baseball's run in the postseason, which ended with a third place finish in the Class 4 Final Four earlier this month in Springfield.
"Coach (Matt) Jansen has done a really good job coming into his first year and getting the team behind him," Book said. "I feel like as a first-year coach, that's probably the biggest thing. It's just trying to get to know the guys, and to get them to do what you want. He did a great job of that, and it obviously paid off for him well."
This year's Mustangs are led by third-year coach Johnny Coy, who has St. Joseph pointed in the right direction as the organization seeks its eighth MINK League title.
While Book and Slibowski are used to playing together, Coy is helping this year's group, which includes 13 local players, play together as one.
There's plenty of season left, but this Mustangs team is confident that things are headed in the right direction.
And it never hurts to have some familiar faces around.
"There's a lot of these local guys," said Book. "I mean, we've always known each other pretty well. But, actually getting to play with each other is a lot different story. So, getting to mesh a little more and just getting to play with each other more is definitely helping us."
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