Graig Keeton feels it is an honor and an obligation.
After returning to the postseason for a second consecutive year, Gatesville was recognized by the District 17-4A head coaches, landing four players on the all-district list.
While the selections are humbling, they are also proof Peyton Bates and Jeff Speer, who are each eligible to return to the Hornets’ roster next season, are prepared to take on additional responsibilities on the field, according to Gatesville’s head coach.
“Increased leadership roles have to come along with stuff like this,” Keeton said. “When someone gets recognized for their performance, no matter what, people are going to look to them.
“The other kids are going to look at them and see what they are doing and see how they are working. They are going to garner more attention, whether they want it or not, so these two should take it as a compliment and a challenge.”
Bates, a sophomore outfielder, was one of two Hornets placed on the all-district first team after leading Gatesville in hits (22), runs (10) and batting average (.367).
Perhaps his most valuable attribute, however, had nothing to do with his hitting. Rather, it was what he did after reaching base.
“Peyton kind of came out of nowhere,” Keeton said. “He is a small guy, and he’s not going to intimidate anyone, but he can run. He’s probably one of the fastest guys in the district as a sophomore.
“He was a spark for us just with his speed in the leadoff spot.”
During the 21 games Bates played, he stole 11 bases, ranking him second on the team behind fellow first-team selection Mitchell Chartier.
The senior pitcher was dangerous on both offense and defense.
At the plate, Chartier posted a .309 batting average with 17 hits, including five doubles, six RBIs and scored nine runs, while striking out 64 batters during his final campaign with the Hornets.
“He had some really quality, big-time starts for us,” Keeton said. “The games he went out and won were against the teams we needed to beat to get in the playoffs, and he turned heads doing that.
“I think everybody recognized that if it wasn’t for him, we would have struggled more than we did, but he delivered on the mound.”
Gatesville finished the season with an overall record of 5-16-1, going 3-7 in district before falling to District 18-4A champion Madisonville in the opening round of the postseason.
Speer earned a spot on the second team after the junior third baseman recorded 14 hits, a team-high 10 RBIs and scored nine runs.
As with Bates, Keeton expects Speer to assume a greater leadership role next season.
“He’s going to have a lot of people looking at him as someone who will help keep moving the team forward,” Keeton said.
In addition to the trio of players placed on the first and second teams, Gatesville senior first baseman Lance Gray was named an honorable mention.
Robinson senior Pat Morrow was named most valuable player after leading the Rockets to the district championship, while China Spring sophomore Brett Cain and junior Dylan Norris were named offensive MVP and newcomer of the year, respectively. Completing the superlative recipients was Lorena senior Ragan Forrest, who was given the award for defensive MVP.
Although Keeton would like to have more players on the team, he believes the Hornets were represented fairly.
“After finishing where we finished,” Keeton said, “I feel like we got what we should have gotten.”