SAN TAN VALLEY — San Tan Foothills baseball coach Ryan Sutterby on Thursday posted a message on the team’s group chat about the Sabercats’ 19-1 win over Coolidge.
The only problem, the game was from last year.
“It’s been therapeutic. It’s been nice to go back and post those memories. It’s been a good ride,” Sutterby said.
Reminiscing about games from last year is how Sutterby and his team have been able to cope with the news this week that their once promising season has been canceled.
The Sabercats last played March 10 in a 3-1 loss to American Leadership Academy-Gilbert North that evened their overall record at 3-3.
“It did suck. It’s life. You have to roll with the punches,” senior Logan Biesemeyer said. “You really can’t control it, but the one thing you can control is our attitude toward it. It did suck but you have to understand that it’s best to be safe than sorry.”
The following day after the Sabercats’ loss to ALA-Gilbert North, the peace and tranquility and the escape from the real world problems on the baseball diamond was shattered when the NBA season was suspended following the news that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The news would send shock waves through the sports world as the next day the NHL and MLB announced it was suspending its season and the NCAA decided to not only cancel the NCAA basketball tournament, but also the remainder of its spring sports schedule.
It was a week that seemed to spiral down hill as the seriousness of the Coronavirus pandemic became apparent.
On March 15, Gov. Doug Ducey announced that all schools were to be closed through March 27 — a date that was later extended through April 10.
With the decision to close schools, the Arizona Interscholastic Association decided to postpone the spring sports season until schools reopen, but on Monday, with the news of the pandemic getting worse, Ducey and then the AIA threw in the towel on the school year and sports season.
“I’m very grateful for it,” Biesemeyer said of the AIA’s decision to hold out hope and try to finish the spring sports season. “Luckily I had the blessing because I’m going to college, but the other seniors who are not going to college, I’m glad (the AIA) fought for them and they at least tried to do their best.”
For the Sabercats’ four seniors including Biesemeyer along with Damien Lyon, Frankie Gulko and Trevyn Badger, it’s a season that will be looked upon years later with the essential question of what if.
For Badger, it’s a question that will haunt him.
Badger and Lyon are the only two left from a 2017 team that was led by them and group of freshmen that made a run in the 2A playoffs and followed it up with a trip to the 2A championship game a year later.
Last year, San Tan Foothills lost 1-0 in 13 innings in a 3A play-in round game, but this was supposed to be the year the Sabercats would compete for a state championship.
“We thought we were going to do something special, but instead it’s always going to be what if,” Badger said.
Badger added he wasn’t surprised by this week’s decision to cancel the season. But now that the baseball season has been officially canceled and students won’t return to the classroom this year, the attention now turns to how will the senior class salvage what should be the best time of its high school career.
“It’s tough because I know when I was younger I was always looking forward to it,” Badger said of his senior year. “This is the best year of your life — prom you look forward to and graduation and everything. It’s just difficult to understand that we might not get to have that.”
Although the seniors might be gone, the good news for the Sabercats is they have a group of underclassmen ready to take the mantle.
Sutterby said his lineup this year included the four seniors along with three sophomores, four juniors and two freshmen.
The freshmen are part of a larger group of seven freshmen that like the seniors leaving, will be looked upon to carry the Sabercats for the next few years.
“We were pretty even as far as numbers go,” Sutterby said. “We do have four seniors and all of them are starters. We also have a freshman class that has seven players.
“It hurts more with them by not getting the JV games in and not having them get the experience that could’ve been helpful down the road.”
While Sutterby is looking toward the future, he was quick to point out the accomplishments of the senior class — from the section championship, the state runner-up finish, winning the Chandler Prep tournament twice and playing in the champions bracket of the Joe Padilla Tournament twice.
“They accomplished a lot in those four years,” he said. “(The seniors) are disappointed obviously. They wanted to be able to go out and compete this last year. They are a mature group and they understood the situation and they understood it was more than the just baseball. It’s life. It’s beyond baseball.”
For Badger and the rest of the seniors, they laid the groundwork for the program, but now the baton has been passed to the freshmen, and the pressure is on them to take care of the unfinished business.
“It’s important for us because we want to keep the tradition going and the legacy alive with the school,” Badger said. “We had all these plans that our senior year was going to be the year we made a statement. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t get to happen and see what we could do.”