Some of the Outlaws chow down on fried chicken before the awards ceremony. (HERALD PHOTO/Jake Hibbard)
EVANSTON – The aroma of fried chicken filled Bear River Pavilion on Monday night, Aug. 19, as the Evanston Outlaws players, coaches and families gathered together for the annual awards banquet. The League A legion baseball team was there to celebrate its first trip to the state tournament in 10 years.
The Outlaws got off to a bit of a rough start to the season but rallied toward the end of it, as they came into the district tournament riding a winning streak that continued and carried them to a state tourney berth.
After all had eaten their fill, head coach Todd Hoover started the ceremony off by talking about the importance of the “Outlaw family.”
Once an Outlaw, always an Outlaw was the message Hoover wanted to project to those in attendance. And when it came to placing this particular group of Outlaws into the pantheon of Outlaws past, Hoover said this group will not be one that is soon forgotten.
“In 10 years, when these kids are playing,” Hoover said while pointing to the young children sitting at a corner table, “we’ll be talking about you guys and what you did with your time here.”
Despite going out in the first two games of the state tournament, it was the improbability of this team’s run to even make it to state that made this year so significant. Slow start aside, the Outlaws at times struggled to field a full team with players coming in and leaving for reasons beyond the team’s control.
A typical full-season schedule for legion baseball consists of about 44 regular season games. Including the district and state tournaments, the Outlaws ended up playing a total of just 30 games. Only one player, Tucker Leland, played in all 30 games.
Adding to the improbability was the collective youth of this Outlaws team. With just one senior on the team, Kade Lym, Evanston had to rely on multiple players – such as Hornedo Baltazar and Hunter Hicks – who at the age of 14 were still eligible to be playing in Babe Ruth League.
“The last time we had a team this young, we went 0-27,” Hoover said.
The progression of youth continued as the season progressed, as the team went from averaging 10-12 strikeouts per game at the beginning of the season to just three or four by season’s end. Looking ahead to next season, Hoover challenged his players to improve upon two things: footspeed and arm strength and encouraged them to take advantage of weightlifting facilities during the offseason.
When talking about Hicks, Hoover referenced his .409 season batting average as evidence of how much potential Hicks has already realized at such a young age.
“He plays like he’s 17 or 18, and he’s got a better swing than I’ve got,” Hoover said, adding that, “In a few years, he will have people coming from a ways away to come see this guy play.”
Hoover had high praise for the rest of his team as well. When talking about James Asmus, he proclaimed that next year, nobody in the entire state of Wyoming will be a better defensive first baseman.
He had similar praise for Miles Piper, proclaiming that by the time he has finished his Outlaws career, he will be one of the finest second basemen Evanston has every seen. Piper finished the year with a .333 batting average, but it should be noted that he increased his average by nearly 100 points in the last half of the season, meaning he was batting in the .400s toward the end of the year.
Hoover named Will Kishpaugh as the team catalyst, and at just 16, a player that will be looked upon, along with All-State first team selection Ian Fisher, as a team leader for next year.
Finally, in talking about the Outlaws’ leader and pitching sensation Kade Lym, Hoover became nostalgic thinking back to his first interaction with the departed phenom. Lym was unable to attend the banquet, as he has already started baseball practice for Western Nebraska Community College, a school that he signed a letter of intent to play for back in February.
“Four years ago, I got a call from someone who told me ‘I want to play college baseball.’ He was 15 years old at that time,” Hoover said. “I think he might have left just a little disappointed in that he wanted to push his team to a state title. But I’ve been in Evanston baseball for 24 years, and he is one of the three best players to ever come through this system.”
Hoover thanked his assistant Judd Kishpaugh, whom he declared the hardest working person in legion baseball this year. He also thanked Kelly Hoover and Katie Kishpaugh for their never-ending support of the team. Not shying away from bold predictions, Hoover proclaimed that within two years, the Evanston Outlaws will be holding a state championship trophy. At the conclusion of the banquet, he named the 2014 team captains as Ian Fisher, Will Kishpaugh and Hunter Hicks.
For the complete article see the 08-23-2013 issue.
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