Nothing motivates Marshall’s Hayden Kelehan to succeed on the baseball diamond like memories of failing.
“There are some things that drive me, like bases loaded with two outs and I’m at the plate, freshman year, and I strikeout with a game-tying run at third,” Kelehan recalls. “It’s just stuff like that that makes me go, ‘Yeah, I’m not doing that again,’ because those chances don’t come around all the time.”
“We’ve had a lot of high expectations for him on the field,” Marshall head baseball coach Derek Dunaway added. “He’s played on varsity since he was a freshman, and last year, his sophomore year, there were a lot of high expectations and I know it was a disappointing year for him.
“He struggled a little bit on the mound but I really think last year motivated him to really lock in and focus and become a really good baseball player, and he’s done that so far this year.”
Kelehan, a junior, is in his third year with the varsity squad and has a larger leadership role than in the past.
“I definitely have big leadership role on this team just because a lot of guys look up to me,” he explained. “I need to take that and know that I’m the example they watch so I’ve got to watch what I do.”
“He’s competing on the mound and at the plate,” Dunaway said. “We’ve moved him around from the outfield to the infield and he’s done a good job of adjusting on the infield. We put him in the leadoff spot and he’s batting like .444, like a .560 on-base percentage. He’s really been good for us this year and he has really taken on a leadership role. He’s one of those guys who will get our guys going, will call somebody out.”
Kelehan and his Mavericks currently own an overall record of 4-6 but hope their experience of playing a tough non-district schedule will help prepare them for district play, which is slated to begin on Tuesday.
“These will be our last few games before we start district next Tuesday,” Dunaway said. “We’ve got to continue to get better at the little things. That’s what’s getting us beat at this point. We play a tough schedule for a reason. We’ve played Carthage twice. I think they’re No. 3 in the state. We played Hudson, which is top-15 team. Spring Hill is a top-15 team.
“A lot of those games that we’ve lost have been because of one or two mistakes. We put ourselves in a position in the preseason to play those games so we can learn from the mistakes and correct them and that’s what we’re trying to do this week at practice and hopefully put it all together in this tournament, again playing some really, really good teams.
“Lovejoy is a top 10 5A team. Sulphur Springs is off to a great start. Our record is 4-6 and if you take away a few mistakes, our record could be different but we’re really not worried about our record until that first district game when it really counts.”
Tuesday’s district opener is slated for 7 p.m. when the Mavericks play host to the Pine Tree Pirates. Until then, they’ll take part in the Reich Builders Classic today at noon when they take on Liberty Eylau, then again at 2 p.m. against Brownsboro.
Friday will see Marshall take on Lucas Lovejoy at 2 p.m. before going up against Sulphur Springs Saturday at 4 p.m.