SALADO — Caden Eary waited all day for a ball to come his way.
With junior ace Casey Frazier tossing a two-hitter, the Salado center fielder had spent much of the game watching and with two outs in the top of the fifth, and his second-ranked Eagles leading Anderson-Shiro 12-2, time was running out.
Suddenly, the familiar ping indicating solid contact danced in his ear, and Eary took off in a dead sprint to his right with his eyes on his desired target.
“I got it! I got it!” Eary screamed to the oncoming left fielder, senior Trey Mohler.
Within a few feet of the fence, Eary dove and extended his glove as he landed among a cloud of dirt on the warning track. Cheers erupted from the Salado fans.
But it wasn’t Eary with the ball. Entering the scene at the last second, Mohler made a sliding catch on his knees for a spectacular game-ending out as Eary looked at him with disdain.
“He called it and I saw him dive, and I don’t know, I just took it,” Mohler said with a wry smile.
Such is the unsung life for the Salado outfield, which, because of a deep rotation and an infield that generally doesn’t let much get by them, doesn’t always get the attention it always warrants.
Other times, like Eary’s experienced more than once this season, it can even get a little boring.
“I went four games straight without getting a ball at all,” Eary said.
Salado’s three starting outfielders — Eary, Mohler and junior right fielder Davis Little — each bring a little something special that has the eclectic Eagles flying high.
No. 2 Salado (31-5-1), which already tied a school-record for wins in a season set by the 2008 Class 2A state championship team, will look to continue its run toward the state tournament when it starts a best-of-three Region III-2A semifinal playoff series tonight against Elkhart (31-8) at Franklin High School.
Game 1 is at 7 p.m. with Game 2 slated for a 2 p.m. start Saturday with Game 3, if necessary, beginning 30 minutes after the completion of Game 2.
“You feel like you’re right there with them, but you’re missing that one thing,” Little said of tying the single-season win record. “You just have to take it one week at a time, one game at a time.”
At Salado, where most of the athletes play multiple sports, Mohler and Little are two of the few baseball players that also play football, a mentality which bleeds over from the gridiron to the diamond.
“Our outfielders just kind of have different personalities, a little like wild men sometimes,” Salado coach Chad Krempin said.
The infielders and pitchers have maintained mostly clean-cut looks this postseason, the outfielders opted to go against the grain with faux-hawks hairstyles. And while the relationship creates a united front among the last line of defense, each outfielder knows their unique position within the team dynamic — especially at the plate.
As the leadoff hitter, Mohler is counted on to spark the Salado offense and get on base by any means necessary, even when he’s not leading off the inning.
“Any time Trey gets on there’s a spark,” fellow senior shortstop and pitcher Jon Franz said after Game 3 against Centerville last Saturday. “Trey’s a good leader and he brings a lot of fire to this team.”
Sometimes, their impact is felt even before first pitch. Prior to each game, the outfielders participate in extended long tossing, rifling throws from across the outfield as a form of intimidation and fair warning.
“During in-and-out, we go hard, we throw the ball hard, that way they know not to run on us,” Little said. “If they want to try and get an extra base, good luck.”
That mentality also works with the way the outfielders are positioned, playing to take away the right and left field gaps while leaving the lines relatively unguarded.
“If they can turn us around and pull us down that line, we’ll give it to them, but we try to take away all the rest of the field,” Krempin said.
To the outfield, every time the ball comes off the bat it’s a personal challenge to their ego. Running around with reckless abandon, each outfielder has an unflinching desire to make a play on everything hit their way.
“If you can get there, you might as well go all out for it,” Eary said, still brewing over the missed opportunity.
“We really don’t get a lot of attention,” Mohler jumped in. “So, you want to make good plays when you get the chance to.”