News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

June 19, 2014

Rockville gets its first Victory Field shot in Class A title game

ROCKVILLE — Perhaps the surprising thing about Rockville’s trip to Victory Field on Saturday for the 1 p.m. Class A high school baseball championship game is that it’s the first trip there for the Rox.

Good a program as Rockville has been, the Rox have had their path blocked by perennial state champion Lafayette Central Catholic, by Cowan at the 2008 semistate, and once even by Shakamak, the team they play this week for the title. In 2006, when the Indiana High School Athletic Association was sending the winner of Rockville’s sectional south instead of north, the Lakers beat the Rox at the regional on their way to a state runner-up finish against Fort Wayne Blackhawk.

Talk to the 2014 Rox, however, and you get the impression that if they knew how much fun going to the state finals would be, they’d have done it sooner.

Coach Bob Kyle has indicated he’s quit worrying about his happy-go-lucky team’s motivation before games, because a totally different mindset appears when it’s time for the first pitch.

“They do love the game,” Kyle said this week, “but they’ll cut your throat [to win] — and they’ll enjoy doing it.”

“I wouldn’t trade this team for any in the state,” Tyler Knoblett said, for example. “We all work together great; there’ never much arguing or bickering.”

“We’ve all been playing together since Little League,” added Beau Buell. “We all love each other, and we love playing together.”

“We’re so like a family,” Cam Helderman mentioned. “We bring each other up, and we play with a lot of emotion.”

“It’s fun being on this team,” concluded Jake Bassett. “Everyone has so much love for each other it’s ridiculous.”

Camaraderie like this is often mentioned by a successful team, especially by its stars. But here’s how Rockville may be different.

Knoblett, Buell, Helderman and Bassett all play significant roles on their team, but none of them are being asked to be stars. Yet their ownership of the team’s success is every bit as real and rewarding as that of the stars, probably for a couple of reasons: they know how important they are, and their teammates make sure they know how important they are.

Bassett, for example, was recruited to this year’s team by his friends who were already on it, not just to join the fun but because they knew he might be able to help with something.

“I know I wouldn’t get a lot of playing time,” the junior reserve outfielder said this week, “but at one of the early practices everybody lined up in the gym [to run] because [Kyle] wanted to find a baserunner, and I knew that was my shot.”

Thanks to a new rule this season that allows courtesy runners once a team’s pitcher or catcher reaches base, Bassett is averaging approximately a run per game. He’s generally the runner for catcher John Brown, and Brown gets on base a lot.

“I practice baserunning and stealing,” Bassett said. “I’m having the time of my life.”

Buell is a sophomore reserve infielder who is also getting playing time as a baserunner while biding his time awaiting a regular spot in the future. Helderman, a junior, plays second base some of the time and is designated hitter when he’s not in the field. Knoblett, a senior, is a superb defender at first base, and occasionally the player Helderman hits for.

“I didn’t know we’d make it this far,” Helderman said this week, “but I knew we were going to be good. There was a lot of work done in the offseason. We were in the weight room a lot, and just about everybody had a hitting coach or an infield coach.”

“I was expecting a good year,” Buell agreed. “I didn’t really expect this team would make it this far — but I’m glad we did. … Playing as a whole team, a whole unit, and trying to achieve the same goal [is why we did].”

“[Getting to the state finals] has been every one of us seniors’ dreams — or the dreams of anybody that plays baseball,” Knoblett said. “It’s an amazing experience for all of us.”

The team’s other two seniors, Brown and Dalton Clark, will be playing college baseball. Saturday is the last baseball game for Knoblett, who will attend a prep academy in the Chicago area in the fall to polish his skills as a fullback, linebacker and defensive end with the hope of being recruited as a football player.

“I’ve been playing [baseball] since I was 5, maybe younger,” he said. “Any last game you play is going to be sad … but the being-happy [about playing at Victory Field] part might outweigh the sad.”

Although this is Rockville’s first baseball championship game, its players are well aware of the football and basketball teams that also made it that far — unsuccessfully.

“It’s a motivational-type thing,” Helderman said. “We’ve seen all those other great teams, but we’ve seen them fail [in the final game]. With the school not ever having a state championship, it would be awesome to win it [Saturday].”

“We could be trend-setters,” said Buell, mindful of the youthfulness of the Rockville roster. “I think we can make a deep run again the next couple seasons.”

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