This is the third in a series of posts on the 2016 Class M state champion Wolcott baseball team.
There were two key moments in the Wolcott baseball 2016 state championship season.
One of them came midway through the regular season, and the other happened in the NVL Tournament. Each served as a crossroads of sorts for the Eagles, and they got back on track both times.
Wolcott head coach Tary Scott knew he had a talented bunch entering the season. After 10 games, however, the Eagles sat at a pedestrian 5-5.
"Our defense was a little shaky," Scott said.
Scott told his team that they still had time to make up for those errors at the plate. Wolcott could hit, but its fielding needed work. Scott saw the potential, and he wanted the team to see it as well.
"I still believe we got the best team in the state," Scott said he told the team. "We just got to come together."
That meant getting the right people in the right place.
Well, something obviously worked for Wolcott in the second half of the regular season. The Eagles went 9-1, with the only loss was 6-5 at St. Paul on May 10. Wolcott closed the regular season with five straight wins to finish 14-6.
Scott said some people beat up on the NVL, but he thinks it only benefited his team.
"This year, [the NVL] was so strong," Scott said. "That got us ready for the state tournament."
Up first was the NVL Tournament.The Eagles entered the NVL Tournament as a dangerous No. 6 seed and gutted out a 4-3 road victory over No. 3 St. Paul in the quarterfinal round.
In the semifinals, Wolcott claimed a 5-1 lead over Holy Cross. The Crusaders came back to tie at 5-5, but the Eagles surged ahead 8-5 in the top of the seventh inning. Three outs away from a trip back to the NVL final, Wolcott imploded and Holy Cross recorded an improbable 9-8 victory.
Wolcott was stunned, it was hurt, but it was also motivated.
"That was the turnaround," Scott said. "They weren't cocky, but they thought they were better than everyone and could just show up and win. To me, that [loss] was a blessing."
The lost refocused Wolcott, and the Eagles showed the toughness and resolve it takes to be successful.
"They never quit," Scott said. "Those guys could have quit when they got beat by Holy Cross in the NVL Tournament."
The team also could have hung it up when it started 5-5. Both times, Wolcott responded to the challenge with hard work. The end result was the program's first state title.