Marshall’s seniors will take the field together at home one last time when they play to Longview on senior night.
The last time the two teams met was on March 30 when the Lobos came away with a 9-2 win in Longview. That was also the last loss for the Mavericks who have since won five games and hope to make it six straight, avoid being swept by Longview and give the seniors something else to remember down the road.
“Even through the tough times this year as we’ve talked through things, I’ve said, ‘You may remember scores, this and that but you’re creating memories that you will be able to talk about for the rest of your lives, just the stories, the little things that go behind the scenes,” Marshall head baseball coach Derek Dunaway said. “They’ll have those memories and they’ll be able to talk about it forever.”
One of those memories the seniors believe they’ll be talking about for years to come happened on Tuesday night when the Mavericks defeated their cross-county rivals in Hallsville in an 8-5 final. That gave Marshall a record of 12-12 overall and 6-4 in district play.
“I think it’s just about mentality, believing we’re better than the other team,” Marshall senior Brayden Robbins said when asked what the key has been to the team’s recent success.
“Believing in ourselves and our teammates,” fellow senior Dylan Thurmon added.
“You’re going to face adversity but you’ve got to find a way to get through it,” Brent Burris, Robbins’ and Thurmon’s teammate and classmate offered. “You’ve got find a way to push through.”
“We’re hot right now,” Dunaway said. “We’re confident. It’s hard to explain in baseball terms. The guys have bought into what our coaches have been preaching to them all year. It wasn’t easy to do because you’re getting told you have to have competitive at bats and play the game hard but when they’re not seeing the winning results, it’s hard for teenagers to keep that drive and keep going but they just believed and our assistant coaches have done a great job of staying on them and believing them, coaching them every day. The guys are practicing hard every day. Now it’s an expectation that we’re going to come out and play hard. We expect to win. We expect to play the game the right way and put pressure on defenses, pitchers fill up the strike zone. Again, I know it’s cliché but if we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win.”
“Just going out there and playing like it’s another game, not seeing who the opponent is,” Robbins said when asked what the key to a win is.
“I think we’ve learned more about ourselves, really, how we can compete with any team,” Robbins added. “I think we’re a way better hitting team this time around.”
Burris, Robbins and Thurmon hope to lead a positive mark with their teammates once they graduate.
“That I work hard,” said Burris, who took a couple of years away from baseball to focus on being the starting quarterback for the football team.
“I guess that I gave it my all every day,” Robbins answered before Thurmon offered “I’m passionate.”
“We like guys who play multiple sports and I think Brayden really came out of his shell playing football,” Dunaway said. “He was asked to do multiple things on the football field and he just accepted that role and did it. He’s a competitor and I think that carried into baseball this year. Early on, we had our first through four in the lineup and we were pretty set on it and Brayden just kind of emerged as a guy who can come up with a big hit in the right situations. He plays great defense in the outfield and just keeps everybody loose. He’s one of the funniest kids I’ve ever been around. He’ll do what you ask him to do. He’s a real coachable kid.
“Dylan has been with us for four years,” the coach continued. “As a senior, you work hard and you have expectations but he struggled early on. You hate to see that for a kid, especially as a senior because you know it’s there and I sat him on the bench for a couple games. It was the right thing to do at the time but he didn’t pout. He didn’t sulk. He just kept working and getting better. He doesn’t have eighth period so I’d see him out in the batting cages hitting on his own. I called him off the bench when we got this five-game going against Mount Pleasant and he got a huge hit and ever since then, he’s been on fire. A great lesson to learn for these younger guys is even if you’re not playing, you need to be ready for your turn and get the job done.
“Brent, I hate that he missed two years with us in the program but he’s very goal-oriented,” Dunaway added. “He wanted to be the quarterback for the Marshall Mavericks and he did that. I think that drive has helped him this year because he said, ‘I want to give baseball a shot again.’ I told him it’s hard for anyone to take two years off in this game. The hardest thing in the world to do is to hit a baseball. The swing was there, the ability to hit a baseball hard was there but the time issue with him early on was not very good but we kept giving him at bats. He struck out a lot but we knew eventually once it clicked, once he got that first hit, that he was going to take off and he’s done that. I think he’s been on base nine of the last 10 times. He’s confident. He brings a lot of swagger to the team.”
Coaches and players alike agree that the Mavericks have solid team chemistry and are enjoin their time tighter.
“The biggest thing with all them is they’re all having fun,” Dunaway said. “They’re having a great time. They’re enjoying their senior year and at the end of the day, we want to have fun and we want these kids to create memories and they’re doing that right now.”
Tonight’s game vs. Longview is slated for a 7 p.m. first pitch, weather permitting.