With the impending closure of high schools across the state looming Monday, the El Campo Ricebirds played quite possibly the last two baseball games in Texas for the next two weeks Saturday at Legacy Fields.
If it was the last high school games played this year, the Ricebirds walked off Legacy Field champions, winning the Ricebird tournament.
“I’m just really hoping that this isn’t the end,” senior Tyler Stephenson said. “I just want to keep playing as long as I can.”
For Stephenson the UIL suspension amid the COVID-19 outbreak not only effects him in baseball team, but also tennis. Stephenson is a singles player for the Ricebird tennis team.
Every spring sport has been affected, even boys basketball still hasn’t been finished with the UIL suspension taking place during the state championship.
While these are truly unique circumstances, the thought that this could be it hasn’t entered his mind.
“We pretty much know that we’ll be playing again, that’s what we’re hoping for,” Stephenson said.
Under the sun Saturday afternoon and early evening, fans packed the hill across the third baseline. The Ricebirds treated onlookers to an offensive showing, scoring 21 runs in their two games.
In the championship game, El Campo run-ruled the Brazosport Exporters 11-0 in five innings. Freshman Brock Rod and junior Jackson David tag-teamed to one-hit the Exporters.
Heading into the state-wide UIL mandated suspension, the Ricebirds are 12-3-1 on the season and are scoring 9.75 runs in their last four games. Outside of two losses at the start of the season, a one-run loss to Brazosport at the start of the Ricebird tournament was their only loss.
El Campo, after that loss, made it through the losers bracket of their home tournament grabbing three straight wins and blew out Brazosport in the championship re-match.
“We’ve had many close, but (they’ve) been hard-fought and we’ve won them,” Stephenson said. “(The season) has been going pretty well so far.”
With Saturday being the final games for a while, the Ricebirds got a chance to wear both their home and road jerseys. After the game, the Ricebirds commemorated their win with team photo and celebrated with a dog-pile as if they won the state championship. With the UIL break, Ricebirds left the field on a high, winners.
During any normal year, the Ricebirds would now turn from a successful preseason schedule and move into district play. Now everything the baseball team has been working for takes a back-burner to the current worldwide health emergency.
“I don’t really have any emotion right now. It’s kind of a weird feeling,” Ricebird Coach Russell Krenek said. “All we can do is stop right here and look at the past. We’ve been grinding it out for three tournaments and we did a really good job at finishing on a high note right here. At this breaking point, we get to look forward to what the future holds which is what we really don’t know. Hopefully, we get to pick back up. That’s the main thing, we hope that we do get to keep going at some point and time.”
As of press time, no updates have been made through the UIL to the baseball and softball playoffs with the start of the playoffs to still take place in May.