Pete Logan
Special to The Gardner News
Coming off a 2019 season in which they earned a number one seed and hosted their 6A Regional, the Gardner-Edgerton High School baseball team was returning a solid nucleus of players and looking forward to bigger things in 2020. However, the COVID-19, cut short those hopes — as it did for every other high school sport across the country, and those GEHS seniors never had the chance to see just how far they could go.
“It was disappointing,” said Trailblazer baseball head coach Corey Schrack, “but — under the circumstances — understandable. It’s just unfortunate because the kids work so hard, and the coaching staff works so hard.”
The 2020 Blazers had just made it through tryouts and the first couple of workouts before the players left for Spring Break. Even after just that short of a time, Schrack was optimistic about the team’s prospects.
“We had high expectations,” Schrack said. “We had a good group back, and we were excited about our younger players. We felt we could be one of the top teams in the conference. I liked our work ethic. As long as we stayed healthy, we felt good about our chances.”
Probably the most disappointed of everyone in the program were the team’s 8 seniors, who were poised for big things. Still, their head coach wanted to make sure that they were recognized for their influence on the program, and not just for the season they missed.
Centerfielder Dayvin Johnson, who earned a baseball scholarship to Iowa Western Junior College, was a Kansas 6A All-State and All-Sunflower League player in 2019. Johnson was a three-sport varsity athlete during his time at GEHS and also would have contributed as a left-handed pitcher for the baseball Blazers.
“I’ve known Dayvin for a long time,” stated Schrack. “He’s a real good kid. He will be a real good player for them (Iowa Western). Offensively, he’s a threat. He’s very fast so he’s a base-stealing threat, and his speed on defense lets him cover a lot of ground in centerfield.”
Utility player Tyler Goetzmann had earned some varsity experience as a junior. In addition to playing in both the infield and outfield, Goetzmann was a valuable pitcher for the Trailblazers.
“Tyler is very versatile,” Schrack stated. “As a pitcher, we were looking for him to be one of our leaders. He is a hard worker and a great team player.”
Right-handed pitcher Trey Kaberline is set to continue his baseball career on scholarship at NCAA Division 2 Missouri S&T University.
“He was dedicated to what we were doing,” Schrack said of Kaberline. “He was a leader. We had him penciled in as our number one starter going into the season. He throws hard and always pays attention to detail. As a teammate, he was very likeable and was always encouraging the others.”
Outfielder and left-handed pitcher Austin Oldham will play baseball at the postsecondary level at Neosho County Community College. A 4-year player in the program, Oldham was penciled in as a varsity player for his senior year.
“Austin worked hard throughout the years and finally got the opportunity to get to the varsity level,” said Schrack. “He has a good arm, is fast, and can run the bases. He is very coachable. He kept an open mind and always wanted to get better, always wanted to improve his game.”
Brock Stewart, a Blazer first baseman and right-handed pitcher, will play baseball next season at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Like Oldham, Stewart was set to enter the varsity lineup as a senior.
“He’s a hard worker,” Schrack said of Stewart. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement in him, and he was excited to get a shot at the varsity level. He is very enthused about the game of baseball. His positive attitude made him a pleasure to be around.”
The Trailblazers’ senior catcher, Jacob Butash, is headed to Kansas Newman to play baseball next year. Butash had huge shoes to fill in replacing 2019 senior Gage Gulley for the Blazers, but Schrack feels that his 2020 senior was more than capable of replacing him.
“We felt like Jacob was going to be really good for us,” stated Schrack. “We felt that he would come right in and play a crucial position. He has improved offensively over the years, and — defensively — we felt he could be one of the best catchers in the league. He’s always had a positive attitude in practice and always wanted to help in every different facet of all the practices and games.”
Riley Bolen is headed off to McPherson College after graduation to play 2nd base for the Bulldogs, the spot he was slated to play for the Trailblazers in the 2020 season.
“Riley was an extremely hard worker,” Schrack stated. “He was very coachable and was excited to get a chance at the varsity level. His defense was very solid, and he was a leader for us in the middle infield.”
GEHS senior Isaiah Jackson is headed off to Washburn University in Topeka in the fall to play football for the Ichabods. As a Blazer baseball player in 2020, Isaiah was slated to be a varsity 1st baseman and designated hitter.
“Isaiah could add some power in our lineup,” said Schrack. “I’ve known him a long time and I know what he can do. He’s a great kid and brought a positive attitude every day.”
When asked for a final word about his 2020 seniors, Schrack was effusive in his praise.
“There are lots of good things to remember,” said the Blazers’ head coach. “They were all dedicated, worked hard, and brought good attitudes to the ballpark every practice and every game. I feel bad for these guys because they put in a lot of work. We were really excited about this group.”