Unbeaten Railer baseball highly motivated
The Ellis baseball team had every reason to believe it was primed for a special year in 2020.
The Railers were set to return a strong core from the team that went 15-4 in 2019, boasting experience on the mound and in the heart of the lineup.
"We were set up pretty well," Ellis coach Brent Cain said. "We had three seniors who would've started in the infield and probably would have been in our top five batting order, probably our 2 and 3 pitchers.
"We were set up. It is disappointing for (the seniors) especially, but I felt like as a team, we were set up to have a good year, for sure."
The disappointment still lingers.
"I heard the news and I was just kind of in shock," senior Tegan Cain said. "We worked so hard. We kind of had a bond that no other team had. We were really ready and we were working toward state. We were looking pretty good. We had good competition, too, but I would have liked to see how it ended."
Still, the cupboard wasn't bare for the motivated Railroaders entering this year.
Ellis is off to a 6-0 start with sweeps of Spearville, Ellsworth and TMP-Marian.
Tegan Cain, a senior leader for this year's team, said seeing last year's four seniors (Zachary Eck, Brian Carbajal, Carter Bollig and John Gamez) get their careers abruptly cut short provides extra inspiration for the current Railers.
"I have those guys text me constantly and they say they wish they could play, they wish they could have that season back," Cain said. "I'm so glad I didn't get my senior season taken away, so I play for them, and I play for my teammates. And we get things done."
The Railers have indeed gotten things done so far. The highlight of the young season so far came this past Monday when the Railers swept TMP-Marian with a pair of 7-0 wins.
Cain and junior Tyson Jimenez dominated on the mound on Monday, combining for 26 strikeouts while surrendering only two hits to TMP.
"It's a nice 1-2 punch, for sure," Brent Cain said. "We can work those two guys in several different ways. They're team guys. They're out here to win ball games. When they're on, they're pretty tough."
The Railers have a mix of experience and youth, with Cain, Jimenez, Konnor Pfeifer and Easton Burton all playing heavily as underclassmen two years ago. Players who are seeing their first year of significant varsity experience include Zach Schiel, Jaryn Wlideman, George Crawford and Sam Honas.
"We still have a lot of juniors and seniors that still don't have much varsity experience, and they're coming along," Brent Cain said. "I expect them to improve daily and get more out of them as the season goes.
"If we continue to throw strikes and make plays, I think we're going to be OK."
Brent Cain said timely hitting is an area the Railers will look to improve on.
"We've got to put the ball in play a little more consistently with two strikes," Cain said. "We've got guys that need to be more aggressive earlier in the counts. We're watching first-pitch fastballs go by and get behind in the count.
"If we can correct some of those things, I think we're going to be good."
Tegan Cain said the Railers have a high confidence level but remain even keeled.
"We've got a lot of games left and we have some tough ones," Cain said. "And our regional is very tough this year. We're pretty confident but we're going to have to go out there and respect every opponent and play our hardest."