Harker Heights at Shoemaker Baseball

Shoemaker pitcher Jesus Encarnacion throws to first base for an out after fielding a ball against Harker Heights on March 26, 2018, at Shoemaker.

Jesus Encarnacion understands Shoemaker might not accomplish its goal.

Season after season, the Grey Wolves struggled to compete, suffering through one losing campaign after another, including last year, when the program collected just one win and failed to earn a District 12-6A victory.

This season was different, though.

Three games into the district schedule, Shoemaker was undefeated, producing a signature 3-2 victory against perennial power Waco Midway.

The momentum was recently ripped away, however, as concerns surrounding the coronavirus paused all athletic activities across the state, threatening to end high school sports altogether for the remainder of the school year.

As a result, the Grey Wolves’ opportunity to completely transform the program in one year is in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, Shoemaker’s standout pitcher believes the season will be a success.

“If this is the end,” Encarnacion said, “as a senior, it’s not disappointing, because I’m going to be able to look back and know that we started something.

“Now, the younger kids can take what we started and continue to grow.”

The Grey Wolves won their first game of 2019 before experiencing a 23-game losing streak, posting a mere 47 runs during the span.

But with a mixture of experienced veterans and young talent on the roster, Shoemaker (7-5-1) eclipsed the run total 10 games into the season and recorded 82 runs in its 13 contests this year.

Although the offense evolved, Grey Wolves’ first-year head coach Adam Froeschl believes Encarnacion’s pitching presence sparked the team’s turnaround.

“He has been our guy,” Froeschl said. “He’s been dominating on the mound.

“He’s been amazing for us, and we wouldn’t be where we are without him.”

The University Interscholastic League extended its ban last week, preventing athletes from taking part in workouts, practices or games until at least May 3.

For Grey Wolves senior Benjamin Hamilton, it is a shocking turn that put his high school career in perspective.

“It’s kind of sad to think about the season possibly being over,” the centerfielder/pitcher said, “but it was a very good run, and I got to spend it with my brothers, who care about representing Shoemaker as much as I do.

“I’m really going to miss that. It means a whole lot to me.”

The Grey Wolves are unwilling to give up hope just yet, though.

Despite being prevented from organized practices or workouts, the players are remaining in continual contact with each other and the coaching staff, providing each other with motivation and advice during these unprecedented times.

Additionally, each is attempting to maintain their conditioning with at-home workout routines.

Staying mentally sharp for a possible restart to the season could be the most difficult aspect for the group after stepping away from the game for so long. Shoemaker has not played a game since defeating Manor 26-4 in five innings on March 12.

“Our confidence was high,” Encarnacion said, “so having this stoppage is pretty hard for us, but we’re staying together and not reflecting on it.

“We’re just trying really hard to keep our bond and our edge.”

It is practically the only thing any player can currently do.

“We have to have the mindset that we’re going to play again,” Froeschl said. “There are so many things right now that we can’t control, but we can control being in shape, working on the fundamentals and being ready when the time comes.

“Even if this stoppage never happened, that’s our philosophy.”

12-6A BASEBALL STANDINGS

Through March 10

Shoemaker (3-0)

Copperas Cove (2-0)

Belton (2-1)

Temple (2-1)

Waco (2-1)

Waco Midway (1-1)

Ellison (0-2)

Harker Heights (0-3)

Killeen (0-3)

NOTE: All UIL interscholastic sports suspended until May 4.

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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