Just as the New Brockton Gamecocks felt like they were hitting their stride on the diamond, COVID-19 put a halt on the 2020 baseball season.
After reeling off four straight wins to start March, the Gamecocks upended Luverne 8-2 on Senior Night and head coach Will Hulsey had mixed feelings because his team was finding themselves just as it seemed the season might come to a premature end.
“When we played Luverne that Monday and did Senior Night they kind of knew deep down it was over,” Hulsey remembers. “They put on a show that night and what they put on the field was a product that was pretty dang talented and could have made a run.”
Senior pitcher Ethan Stinson said that he also felt this group of Gamecocks could have made a run at a title.
“I definitely think we had a chance to make a run this year as far as a state championship,” Stinson emphasized. “We only lost a couple of guys (from the previous season) and we had good pitching and I felt like our bats were already better than last year. I think we could have made a deep run into the playoffs.”
Fellow senior Russell Weeks also believed the 2020 Gamecocks could have made a deep run into the playoffs.
“The possibilities for this team and how far we could have went we will never really know but myself and my teammates all believed we had a good chance of being fourth round, if not state bound, potential.”
Stinson and Weeks were a part of a small but talented senior group that also included Clay Cotney and Kade Brunson. All four were starters and leaders for New Brockton.
“They were the makeup of the team,” Hulsey said. “That was a good group of seniors that had played a lot of baseball. I hate it for them.”
Hulsey said that he’s been proud of all of the senior classes he’s had at New Brockton since arriving on campus because they seem to raise the bar for the future each year.
“It’s special to a coach to see your program continuously get better every year,” Hulsey said. “I thought those guys did a really great job with their maturity level of coming from their junior year into seniors and taking on a leadership role. I really love this group of seniors and I’m really going to miss them.”
Stinson – who transferred from Enterprise going into his sophomore season – said that he will always remember how his Gamecock teammates took him once moving to the school.
“When I came over to New Brockton they were the ones that took me in and I will always appreciate how they made me immediately feel like family,” Stinson said. “They also had a lot of respect for me and that’s something I will always be happy about.
“The way things ended we kind of saw it coming with the virus and how things were going, but it sucked because it’s your senior year and there will always be a lot of untold things on that field that could have happened.”
Weeks also moved to New Brockton heading into his eighth grade year and had a similar experience.
“This senior class means a lot to me,” Weeks said. “When I moved here in eighth grade they all just took me in like I had always been there and never treated me any different.
“Then those guys that came in after me were treated the same way and it really gives you a good idea of what kind of people they are and that it’s a family atmosphere at New Brockton.”
Stinson said the memories he’ll hold on to most in the future will be the time on the field with his friends.
“I’ll always cherish the times we got to play on that field together,” Stinson said. “You never know when your last game is going to be, so I’ll cherish those memories of playing on the field with the best people I could possibly have played with.”
Weeks pointed to the Highland Home playoff matchup in 2019 as something he’ll always hold on to.
“I think I’d have to say the best memory I had was putting out Highland Home at their place junior year to seal our spot in the second round,” he said. “Those games were most definitely a team effort and was a moment I could relive with all of these seniors.”
While Weeks will be heading to West Point during the summer as he gets set to play football at Army, Hulsey believes that scholarship offers for baseball will be coming for Cotney and Stinson.
“Russell will be going to West Point for football and I think Kade is going to college for engineering,” Hulsey said of his seniors. “Recruiting wise, though, it’s kind of a dead period right now where schools don’t know how many scholarship they’re going to have and they can’t really even talk to guys, but I have faith that Stinson and Cotney will be able to continue playing somewhere.”