Why Alma's baseball seniors are helping change the culture around the program

Leland Barclay
Special to the Times Record

ALMA - Brian Fry was eager for his first season as Alma’s baseball coach last year.

The former Northside coach took on the task of trying to rebuild the Airedales, who had lost all 27 games they played the year before.

Five games, and no wins, into the 2020 season, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and wiped out all spring sports and most of the summer.

Now, this season, the Airedales are 5-13, including 2-6 in the 5A-West. Tuesday, they dropped close 4-3 and 4-0 decisions in a conference doubleheader to Russellville.

A lot of that renewal is due to seniors Jacob Machen, Zack Holt, Ledger Anderson, Josiah Weaver and Seth Cole.

“These guys aren’t afraid of anybody,” Fry said. “They lost their junior season and lost their summer season. You watch them play, and they’re not afraid of anybody. They’re going to lay it out every game.

"With what our seniors started last year and now with what they’ve picked up, they’ve changed the culture. They believe they can compete and can win any time we step on the field.”

Machen, Holt, Anderson and Weaver watched their sophomore seasons as the Airedales went 0-27. As a comparison to how far the Airedales have come from that season, they lost to Russellville, 10-0 and 15-0.

“We come in every day with the mentality to change the culture,” Holt said. “The last couple of years, our culture hasn’t been that great.

"Our goal was to change the culture and make us a better team, not just for us but for later teams.”

Alma senior Zack Holt drives a two-run double to center field during the fifth inning against Russellville at Alma, Tues., April 6, 2021.

The seniors have been helping get the job done.

“We’ve leaned on them since June 1 when they opened the facilities back up,” Fry said. “These guys created energy every day.

"They’re the ones who pulled everybody out. They were here every day. It’s because of them that we’re in position to win ball games.”

The seniors are glad to have that responsibility.

“There is a lot asked of us, but a lot of underclassmen have stepped up in a big way,” Machen said. “It’s been a team effort. Everybody is coming in here and working and trying to set an example.”

In the opener of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Alma trailed 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth when the Airedales loaded the bases. Holt promptly hit a ringing double, scoring pinch-runner Tyson Shepherd and Derrick Hatcher.

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Machen’s grounder scored Cameron Ray, who had walked to load the bases, as Alma cut Russellville’s lead to 4-3, but the Airedales got no closer.

Russellville took the second game, 4-0, but Alma matched the Cyclones with seven hits apiece.

That’s not good enough for the Airedales, though.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, but we’re still looking toward the next game,” Machen said. “We still want to put W's on there. We’re not going to be satisfied and just think that we did better.”