Boyle County baseball primed for another region title run

Published 9:32 pm Sunday, March 18, 2018

Boyle County’s baseball team made history last season.

But the Rebels’ loaded senior class isn’t happy with how that season ended.

The Rebels swept through the 12th Region last year, going 17-5 and finishing with a state tournament appearance. Boyle has 12 seniors on this year’s team and returns all but one starter from 2017’s region title team.

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“Really, we’re not satisfied with how last season ended,” senior Sam Tiller said. “This team really wants to get back and kind of start Boyle County as a dominant program in the 12th Region. Just do the same things we did last year: Play as a team, have each other’s backs and come out and play ball every day. That’s what you have to do.”

It starts with the seniors: Tiller and Tristen Helton are the “1A and 1B” options for head coach Kyle Wynn on the mound.

“I’m going to keep working on my game and let my defense play for me,” Tiller said. “I’ve got a bunch of great players out there. Really, it’s not going to just be me this year. Tristen Helton is a great pitcher and Karson Thompson, I think he’s going to have a great season. I think we’re going to be more of a complete staff this year.”

At the plate, the Rebels return a wealth of talent, led by the 2017 12th Region tournament MVP Ty Dragan. But the key for Boyle will be to stay focused on a nightly basis.

“The key right now, I think we might’ve surprised some people last year,” Wynn said. “You only lose one starter from last year, I don’t think you’re surprising anybody this year. I think the key for us is going to be to stay humble, keep working every day and realize how hard it was to do it last year and how hard it’ll be this year. It’s hard to even make it to region with the district we have, then two, you have to roll off three-straight wins in the region tournament.”

Boyle’s talent also doesn’t stop with the seniors: The sophomore class is loaded with talent, as well as a freshman class that could sneak game time this year.

A super-deep squad means more competition in practice, Wynn said.

“In the past, in our own intersquad scrimmages we’ve had to even out the teams, but now it’s easy enough for us to field two quality teams and have a quality intersquad,” he said. “You can tell that our quality of a team, we have 29 guys this year, it’s easy to put 10 or 11 guys against each other. We can put them in two teams and go.”

That’s something that the players have embraced this year.

“I think it’s going to be good for us,” senior Kaden Gervacio said. “Along with having so many seniors, people we know we can trust, it’s going to drive people to be competitive for starting spots. It’s always going to be the best player, not just the one that is oldest. It drives everybody to be their best.

“We embrace that competition, the ones coming from football, that’s all we did, we had to push each other all the time. Carrying that over to baseball is just another thing for us.”

Tiller said having region championship experience is a huge advantage this season.

“Last year, it happened and we were kind of ahead of schedule,” he said. “This year, just having that experience and knowing what it takes, playing good baseball at the right time, and just having that experience of playing in that three-day tournament against good teams, knowing you have to be ready to play every day, I think that this year’s team understands that. We don’t have to make the great plays, we have to make the ordinary plays in order for us to be where we need to be.

“The leadership, obviously we have a lot of experience, and you can tell just in an intersquad scrimmage, all the guys can run the bases. Having a lot of older guys on the team helps with just the cleanness of our baseball.”

Both Gervacio and Tiller said that already having a region title doesn’t add any pressure to this year’s team. They just go out and play, like they’ve done for nearly 10 years.

“I think we just come out here and we just love playing with each other,” Tiller said. “That’s what makes it fun for all of us.”

“I’ve played this game since I was 8, it’s weird thinking that this might be my last year,” Gervacio added. “The majority of the senior class, we started playing ball together at Millennium Park, we were the scrappers. First year playing, we went undefeated.”

It won’t be an easy road in 2018 — Boyle has the proverbial target on its back, and the 12th Region is one of the stronger regions in the state. Wynn said he’s added some tough games to the schedule this year to prepare his squad for the postseason.

“Inside our region, I’d stack it up against any region in the state,” he said. “I think there’s a handful of teams this year that could win it, there’s a lot of really young teams with a lot of people coming back. I think it’s going to be an even stronger region tournament than it was last year.

“We’ve tried to make sure that we’re battle-tested going into region,” he said. “So we’ve beefed up the schedule a little bit and we handpicked some schools to make sure we’re playing good competition, so regardless of our win-loss record, we’ll be tested going into the postseason this year.”