A two-week break between games caused by a recent postponement may not be what Word of Life baseball coach Stephen McNett wanted for his talented team.
But it serves as a good marking point for what the Fire has accomplished and some exciting challenges that lie ahead.
Playing without the restrictions of Kansas State High School Activities Association scheduling, Word of Life is 19-2 after victories over Medicine Lodge and Pratt on April 15. That includes a 9-0 record against Kansas schools.
Word of Life’s roster is comprised of local players and athletes from the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. All are 18 and younger, McNett said.
The Fire started practice in early February and opened its season with eight games against Oklahoma teams. Word of Life won seven, including a pair of one-run games and another by two.
“We’ve got an experienced team and they don’t let anything overwhelm them,” said McNett, a former Friends University player who is in his second season. “When things got tough, they didn’t fold like a young team would. They definitely fought.”
Word of Life has outscored opponents 233-55. Its success is generated in all phases of the game.
On the mound, senior Jack Halloran, a Derby transfer, is 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Bahamas native Dwight Rahming (4-0, 2.91) pitched a no-hitter this season and Dominican Cristian Telemaco (3-2, 0.63) has a perfect game.
“With us playing more games than KSHSAA schools, it requires us to develop more pitchers,” McNett said. “That benefits our guys who will go on to college. They’re used to the rigorous schedule.”
Offensively, senior outfielder-third baseman Julio Ibarra of Venezuela leads the Fire with a .544 batting average and 29 RBIs. He has also stolen 12 bases, while Word of Life is 82 of 88 as a team.
McNett credits off-the-field activities for bridging the cultural gaps on his team. Word of Life players participate in team movie nights, a kangaroo court and fund-raisers for needy families.
“When you get guys constantly in a team environment, that chemistry just builds itself,” McNett said.
Word of Life was 23-5 last season and participated in the National Association of Christian Athlete national tournament in Tennessee. This year, the Fire’s season homestretch will include doubleheaders with Garden City, Washburn Rural and Coffeyville, and participation in Hays’ three-day Western Diamond Classic with teams such as Goddard, Salina Central and Great Bend.
“A lot of our guys are hungry and want to get the attention of the bigger schools,” McNett said. “The team wanted to play some of the 5A and 6A schools and go prove ourselves.”
Orioles coach Doug Jefferson said the hard-throwing right-hander, who led Circle to a third-place finish in Class 4A last spring, is not scheduled to pitch in either game of a doubleheader against the Thunderbirds. Hutson pitched a four-hitter with 13 strikeouts in Augusta’s 3-0 victory at McPherson on Monday.
Hutson, who orally committed to play at Oklahoma State after decommitting from Wichita State, is 3-1 with a 0.97 ERA. Hutson, who also plays shortstop, has struck out 51 and walked seven while allowing 16 hits in 29 innings.
Augusta is 5-5.