Over the past few months, life has been unconventional for all, and for Junior Swamp Bats Showcase Baseball Team’s shortstop/pitcher Zach Mooers, he’s been waiting longer than most for normalcy.
The rising senior at Keene High School has played in consecutive summer seasons but has not played a full season at the high school level since his freshman year.
So, for Mooers, there was only one way to describe the return to the diamond.
“I like to describe it as beautiful,” Zach Mooers said. “I missed all of last year, my sophomore season I was injured. So, it is finally nice to be able to come back out and play baseball. Being around the boys again, it’s the best feeling ever and there’s nothing better than baseball and hot weather.”
Mooers and the Junior Swamp Bats Showcase Team made easy work of the Granite Heat 18U baseball team on Wednesday afternoon with a 12-2 win.
Mooers struck out two in a pair of scoreless innings pitched on the mound.
It didn’t take long for the Swamp Bats to get going offensively, though.
After splitting a doubleheader, the previous weekend against the NLB Shamrocks 18U with a 5-2 win and 3-0 loss, the Showcase team jumped out to an early 4-0 lead against Granite State 18U, highlighted by a two-run blast off the bat of Pete Haas.
Haas, another Blackbird representative on the Junior Swamp Bats, finished 2-for-4 with a pair of hits, two runs scored and three runs knocked in.
Known as a standout pitcher and one that plans on pitching at the collegiate level, the homer brought Haas down memory lane, where he used to rip homers on the small diamond.
The long shot, while a good feeling, wasn’t the only thing that Haas and his teammates had to be happy about.
Despite the new guidelines in place that consist of cleaning the baseballs extensively, showing up to the park in masks, socially distancing on the bench, not spitting or being allowed to touch the baseball when the opposing team is in the field among others, it’s good to just be out on the field playing the game.
“It’s kind of just going with the flow and doing what our coaches tell us to do,” Haas said. “I think a lot of us reached the point where we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field right now. It’s different for every guy but for a lot of us it’s getting on the field and getting prepped for college ball because that’s our big dream.”
Cam Chamberlain, hitting in the No. 3 spot in front of Haas, added a pair of hits, two runs scored and a pair of runs driven in.
Alex Charles and Shea Zina each had multi-hit games as well.
Liam Conley, Liam Yardley and Huxley Holcombe all added hits for the Junior Swamp Bats.
Holcombe started on the mound for the Showcase Team, throwing three one-hit innings, allowing one hit, walking one and striking out one.
Taylor Letourneau threw a scoreless inning for the Junior Swamp Bats, striking out a pair.
For John Luopa, the head coach of the Showcase Team, the start to the summer has been different, a lot to do with the approach the kids have taken during their time off prior and now back in the swing of things.
“We had practice [Tuesday night] and two guys stayed after to do extra running,” Luopa said. “That would never happen in a summer before, but this summer they may not have been the ones in perfect shape, they saw others throwing harder, running faster and said that they have to get after it harder themselves.”
For Luopa it’s all about the kids being back on the field, and it’s no different for the umpires, taking time out of their day while also putting their health at risk, to umpire games for the kids.
“In these guys world, everything is right here and now. And to have a whole season taken away, regardless of the sport, it has to be heartbreaking for those kids because they work all year to get geared up for a season and all of a sudden it gets shut down,” home plate umpire Mike Hebert said. “The first time back taking the field for me, it was for a U16 game and I had goose bumps for the kids. It’s all about them and letting them play the game that they love.”