By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
PLATTSBURG - It's a Wednesday afternoon, and the Plattsburg baseball team is gathered at Perkins Park for an afternoon practice. You'd think this a common occurrence, but in fact, it's rare.
"It's definitely weird," senior pitcher Brock Steggall said. "It's been awhile since we've practiced, but I don't think anyone is complaining. We like playing games and competing."
Plattsburg (24-7) will have played seven games in the first 12 days of May. They played 17 games in April alone.
Senior shortstop Kayden Carter says that's just the way they like it.
"I feel like the more games you play, the better you'll be toward the end of the season," Carter said. "You get to see more competition and different competition. So, yeah. I think it's a good thing. Playing more games."
Plattsburg has won a school-record 24 games this season, including 14 of their last 15. This after winning just three games in 2019. The team now seeks its first district title since 2018, its first Final Four berth since 2009 and its first ever state championship.
Head coach Beau Brown says this turnaround and record season is a large credit to the seven seniors on the roster.
"A lot of the seniors were here playing on the team when they had a three-win season," Brown said. "I think they had the mindset of, 'Hey, we can do this if we really work hard.' They've put some great work ethic in over the years and it's really paying off now."
The turnaround has also been made possible, Brown says, by the strength and size of their schedule. The Tigers have played 32 games in the regular season - that's at least 11 more than every other team in Class 2 District 15.
"Our guys get to see a lot more pitches," Brown pointed out. "We get a lot more situationals in a game. We get the opportunity to throw more pitchers throughout the season. Really, it's benefited us. By far, it's benefited us."
Plattsburg has broken a combined 42 school records this season as a team and among individual players, and more are coming. Steggall, a State Fair Community College baseball signee, holds a decent chunk of those school records himself.
Single-season strikeouts and innings pitched, career runs scored, career walks. The list goes on. After a 5-4 start to the season, and three of those losses coming by a single run, Steggall says the team learned from its mistakes and hasn't looked back.
"I think in the beginning, we were always close in games, but we didn't always necessarily finish a game and keep it going through," he said. "With Coach Brown, we really focused on staying attentive the whole game and playing hard the whole game and just getting the job done."
Defense and pitching, coach Brown says, has been this team's specialty. They're averaging less than two errors per game, and the crisp starting pitching has complemented that well.
"All four of our main starters have thrown extremely well," Brown said. "I think our ERA as a team right now is at 1.97. We've only given up more than three runs a handful of times this season. To boot with that, our defense has been phenomenal for us."
Plattsburg owns eight shutout victories this year and have only allowed five or more runs in seven games. What's more, they've scheduled tough.
The Tigers will have played seven games against Class 4 teams and three against Class 3. They've also gone to battle against some of the best teams in the state in Savannah (25-5), Putnam County (15-2), East Buchanan (14-3) and Lawson (17-4).
With district play coming up next week, junior pitcher and catcher Wyatt Moran, who holds the single-season record in total singles and bases, believes this team can overcome whatever's thrown their way.
"If we're playing our best baseball," he said, "we should be A-okay."
There's a chance Plattsburg will have a lot more innings under their belt compared to any team they face this postseason. Brown is hopeful that more coaches in the area will do what he does and stuff the schedule.
"If there any coaches listening out there, add more games," he said. "I promise you, it's not going to hurt you."
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