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Hughesville honors its 7 baseball seniors, retires No. 20

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Hughesville seniors show off the two No. 20 jerseys, which will be retired in honor of the Class of 2020. The seven seniors didn’t get to play a final high school season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

HUGHESVILLE — Every offseason workout, every weight-lifting session was conducted while focusing upon one goal.

Hughesville had taken a big step forward in 2019 when it made a nine-win improvement, won 14 games, defeated Class AAAA state champion Selinsgrove late in the regular season and came within a run of reaching the District 4 Class AAA semifinals. Players approached 2020 as the year it would take the final step and reach the top of that championship ladder.

It was district championship or bust. The Spartans returned a strong core from that team and had a potent blend of experience, promising youth and depth. But Hughesville could never pursue that goal after the COVID-19 pandemic ended its season before it started.

“We said last year after the Central Columbia playoff game we lost that next year is our year,” Hughesville third baseman Brock Stroup said following Thursday’s 15-7 over Warrior Run in a four-team summer league game played at Bodine Park. “You can never take anything for granted. Knowing we had such big goals and it was taken away in one day, you just have to take everything day by day. You never know when you’re last day is so we’re definitely never taking anything for granted. We know it can be gone in the blink of an eye.”

Still, the legacy the seven recent Hughesville graduates leave behind is not dulled by not having that shot at district and/or state gold. In fact, it might strengthen it. Those seven graduates were honored before Thursday’s game and Hughesville coach Chris Kish announced during the ceremony that the No. 20 was being retired in honor of the Class of 2020.

And if returning Spartans build off what those graduates did, the No. 20 could continue growing in magnitude the next three years. One can look at the legacy Stroup, Chase Bremigen, Jacob Corson, Ian Gagliano, Devin Maciejewski, Chance Webb and Hunter Wentzel leave behind three ways. There are baseball, leadership and life aspects which can help future Spartans shine.

The easiest one to quantify is what happened on the field. Those seven players contributed a lot during the breakthrough 2019 season and were at the heart of a dedicated offseason effort. The 2018 year was a frustrating one because Hughesville lost so many close games, but those seven were critical in Hughesville not lamenting the past, but forging forward.

They did so by rolling up their sleeves and working. The 2019 turnaround which produced such high hopes for 2020 did not happen by accident. That group worked, pushed and kept grinding. It continued motivating underclassmen throughout the summer, fall and winter months. The returning Spartans cannot adopt the graduates’ statistics, but if they adopt their determination and drive, big things could happen.

“In a few years, knowing that they took in what we did and paid attention to it and knowing that they can bring home the district title, that will make us feel good,” Stroup said after going 2 for 2 with a double, RBI and two runs against Warrior Run. “Not only all the coaches, but all of us are teaching them during practice and they’re listening. Knowing they’re coachable and unselfish and that they’re going to do a good job is a great feeling.”

Hughesville is 4-0 this summer, the only undefeated team in the league. The past and future and jelling well together and showing what could have been last spring. All seven seniors reached base at least once in Thursday’s win while combining for eight hits. The young players also are showing what could be in the coming years and that is why this experience could be so beneficial.

“I told those (graduates), when those young guys are out there it’s vitally important for you guys to make sure you’re as invested in the game as much as they are when they’re cheering for you while you’re out there to start the game,” Kish said. “If we build that from the foundation up, and those guys were the foundation for what we’re trying to do here, we should be in good shape.”

That includes off the field as well.

This 2020 class is the first one that Kish coached for all four years since becoming the coach in 2017. He has witnessed tremendous baseball growth, while also watching boys grow into young men.

Having a shot at a championship this past spring would have been nice, but the legacy these seven graduates leave behind goes beyond wins and banners. Sports teach a lot about life and Hughesville’s seven baseball graduates have become excellent teachers.

“They are really super special to me. You start to look at things four years back and you think these kids have really grown athletically, but also in their maturity levels,” Kish said. “That’s the thing I’m most proud. They’re good players, but the most important thing to me is they have become really good people.”

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