Varsity Baseball

Galvanized Goddard rallies around baseball coach before he leaves for crosstown rival

A year ago, Goddard sat 5-1 as one of the hottest teams in Kansas but finished on an 11-game losing streak.

“Honestly at that point, it was kind of hard to show up to the field,” senior Isaiah Cohens said. “It’s hard to want to play when you feel like you know you’re going to lose.”

Friday, the Lions entered their doubleheader with Maize South 5-1 as the No. 3 seed in Class 5A West. They have beaten the defending Class 4A-Division I champion, Arkansas City, split with Wichita Northwest and swept rival Eisenhower.

goddard high school baseball isaiah cohens
Goddard’s Isaiah Cohens Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

But soon Eisenhower will be home to the man in charge.

In late January, coach Darrin Fisher — also the Goddard defensive coordinator — accepted the football coaching job across Kellogg at Eisenhower. This, then, is his final season in charge of the Goddard Lions baseball team.

The Lions were presented with two options: come together or mail it in.

“The coaches have all just invested so much in us,” Cohens said. “They spend more time with us than their actual families. It just means more than baseball to us, so we are just trying to give back after everything they have done for us.”

Two seasons ago, Goddard won three games and was one of the poorest teams in Kansas’ Class 5A. Fisher said he believes a lot of the meltdowns have been because of his own over-coaching and pressure put on the team to perform.

goddard high school baseball blake mitchell
Goddard’s Blake Mitchell Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

With Fisher on his way out after the 2019 season, Goddard could have reverted back to old ways and won only a few games on talent. The Lions have one of the most athletic rosters in the Wichita area.

Senior pitcher Cohens is headed to Johnson County Community College. Junior third baseman Blake Mitchell is verbally committed to Cowley County. Burdett has risen as one of the Lions’ biggest leaders.

Goddard also has a handful of football players on the roster who made it to the Kansas Class 4A state championship game this season with Fisher by their side. Contributors like sophomore quarterback Kyler Semrad and receiver Kaeden Hoefer add invaluable winning experience, Burdett said.

Even up-and-comers like sophomore Jake Shope have started to come along. Friday night, Shope made a diving play at second base. He snared a ground ball, turned and fired for the out.

goddard high school baseball jake shope
Goddard’s Jake Shope Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

But they didn’t choose to rely on individual skill. They are ready to fight and come together as a group, Burdett said.

“I said this today, ‘When we’re down, we feel like we can still come back,” he said. “When we were down, it felt like, ‘OK, well, that’s the game.’ There were a couple of us that didn’t feel that way, but now nobody does.”

Fisher said he was proud of his group’s fight Friday night, splitting with Maize South. The Lions opened the doubleheader with a 8-4 win and followed it with a well-fought 3-1 loss.

Maize South senior Brayden McPheeters finished a complete game one-hitter.

Although Goddard is on a one-game losing streak, Fisher said they don’t believe the sky is falling as the they did last season.

“We’ve got to take more of a backseat and be more positive,” Fisher said. “Baseball is such a negative game, and I’m a pretty emotional guy. So our saying this year is, ‘Cut down, grow again.’ “

goddard high school baseball coach darrin fisher
Goddard coach Darrin Fisher Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

The same could be said about Fisher in 2019. Last season turned out to be filled with more downs than ups. With a new venture on the horizon, he still isn’t looking ahead, he said.

This group has the potential to get to state, Fisher said. That is the goal, but it’s about more than that, he said.

“I want to leave on a good note and know that I had an impact on these guys,” Fisher said. “I hope I leave them with some good memories and maybe a couple life lessons they can use later on in life.”

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.