Montemayor: Mill Valley’s boys of summer impressive
Last spring’s early exit from the 5A state baseball tournament had Mill Valley baseball coach Jeff Strickland and district activities director Rollie Van Wyhe eager to see their team return to the stage and to see how much further it could go.
Perhaps the best indication of the Jaguars’ future chances is that 2012 was no flash in the pan. Mill Valley’s 23-4 season punctuated by Kaw Valley League and regional championships wasn’t a result of one or two prodigies passing through but, rather, was part of a bigger picture — one that is playing itself out again this summer.
This is all despite losing seven seniors: Wade Hanna, Bret Holloway, Luke Knehans, Greg Mason, Tyler Moore, Garrett Scheffler and Jacob Spring.
Yet nearly as many juniors (six) will return to assume leadership roles next spring. It’s a group that — should summer ball be any indication —looks poised to send the program to higher heights.
Strickland said his players compete for more than eight months out of the year, between the regular season and offseason activities.
It has been their performance this summer that again looks to provide a glimpse at what to expect come next spring.
For a second straight year, the Jaguars turned in a strong showing in summer play. Their under-18 team (incoming juniors) won two tournaments — the Father’s Day Classic and Midwest Classic — competing as a team largely composed of 2012 junior varsity players.
At the Midwest Classic, the Jaguars went 5-1 over a three-day stretch against teams like Blue Valley Southwest, Blue Valley Northwest, Blue Valley West, Gardner-Edgerton as well as visiting powerhouses from Nebraska and Iowa.
“It was an excellent test for our kids and our pitching staff,” Strickland said.
Ryan Bath, L.J. Hatch, Dakota Loftin, Zach Stinnett, Jake Theis and Jason Younger will return as seniors next year to lead a deep Jaguars squad. While Strickland said his senior class is strong, he is also high on the potential juniors like Micah Clarke, Bryce Lievens and Nick Wilson have to further contribute.
“Really, as a whole, our entire junior class has done a great job,” Strickland said.
It is a testament to the Jaguars’ overall program that Strickland hasn’t had to sweat the departure of more than a half dozen seniors. Each recent season has so far brought a new crop of leaders filling in for those who moved on.
On average, Strickland estimates that Mill Valley’s freshman classes have hung around two dozen. This year’s class promises to be the program’s largest, with anywhere from 30 to 35 freshmen entering the program.
“It’s definitely promising to see kids buy into our program,” Strickland said. “It keeps us from having to be forced to put kids who aren’t ready for varsity on the field when we have classes coming in that are strong and primarily junior- and senior-based.”
It also means a team that got a brief taste of state tournament play will be well-positioned to return for a bigger bite next year.
“Quite frankly we haven’t proven anything yet,” Strickland said.
Callahan appears in Shrine Bowl
In his last appearance as a Jaguar, Zach Callahan suited up in the Kansas Shrine Bowl on Saturday in Emporia, as the West team defeated the East for the seventh consecutive game, winning 14-7.
Callahan will soon depart for Northwest Missouri State, where he will play on the defensive line for the Division II school.
Callahan also appeared in the June 14 Country Mart Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game. In that game, Callahan started on the defensive line for Kansas. During his senior season for the Jaguars, Callahan recorded 62 tackles and three sacks en route to earning first team All-State and All-Kaw Valley League honors.