The academic school year is still about a month away, but that doesn't mean that the kids on the West End 13-15-year-old team aren't doing their homework early. They definitely are, they're just doing it on the baseball field.
What West End does is study its opponents to learn what to do when the time comes. That all started for West End on Tuesday when it knew the task at hand was to win and stay alive as they sat at 1-2 in the pool play standings.
"The guys were very positive and they seemed to get its head around the concept that it was win and you are in and it's kind of like doing homework. When you're down to crunch time, you always get your best work done and those guys seem to know that when it's on the line, they perform," West End manager Scott Niklaus said.
West End is now in the semifinals as they face Valley West today at 7 p.m. at Logue Field after rain forced the game to be delayed by a day. The team is two wins away from claiming a state championship.
The whole playoffs this year probably sounds familiar for West End fans who saw this team as 13-year-olds encounter the same type of scenario in order to reach the postseason. Niklaus and his team are hoping that the end game will be the same this time around.
"It's eerily similar, it really is. It's eerily similar that this years the same as two years ago," Niklaus said. "I hope that something the same is in store for them. I hope for them that they worked hard enough for it and put the time in and they've done the work and if they play well, they deserve it. They really do."
West End defeated Altoona on Wednesday night, 12-5, and had to come back in the seventh inning after Altoona took a one-run lead. Ian Dinsmore had a bases-clearing triple to put West End back ahead and spark an 8-run rally.
While West End has some momentum on its side heading into today's game against No. 2 seed Valley West, the rain on Thursday evening may have put a damper on that. The kids on the team though don't let the delay affect them at all. They just shake it off and realize it's just another day to relax.
"We have a process before game time and then when it's messed up by rain, it's disheartening number one and kinda takes you out of your rhythm," Niklaus said. "But I think it's more for the coaches. I don't think it affects my boys much. It's like 'okay, we'll do it tomorrow.'"
Valley West went 3-1 through pool play and its lone loss was to Media on Tuesday, 7-3. While Valley West isn't blowing teams out offensively, Niklaus and West End know they are in for a good game against a solid team.
"You don't get a No. 2 seed by just showing up and handing a lineup card in. We know they're ready for the game," Niklaus said. "They can hit the ball, they got solid pitching, they don't beat themselves. We'll have to play a complete game. Obviously defense and hitting and I said it before, it's the little things. It's the details you have to take care of that make the difference."