Juniors Devin Gattis and Breckin Waters help Van Buren baseball heading into playoffs
A pair of juniors have emerged to help the Van Buren baseball team reach the Class 5A state playoffs which begins 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Jonesboro.
After Luke Hughes was injured earlier in the season, Devin Gattis surfaced as the team's No. 2 pitcher behind Connor Johnson, and shortstop Breckin Waters worked his way up the batting order after debuting at No. 9.
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Gattis said confidence helped him with his success.
"I always knew I could pitch, just not at the high school level, but when Luke got hurt I knew I had to step up and help the team where I could," Gattis said. "When I came in to pitch against Greenbrier and shut them down, that gave me a little confidence."
He threw for 5 2/3 innings against Greenbrier with four hits and four strikeouts as Van Buren won 6-0. Gattis is undefeated this season (5-0) as the team's No. 2 conference starter with a 0.6 ERA.
"We knew Devin could pitch, and when Luke went down, we had a void with the No. 2 spot, and Devin stepped in," coach Luke Weatherford said. "If we were to hand out an MVP award, we would give it to Devin because he came in and pitched so many big games for us this season, gave us a lot of innings, and been so consistent."
Waters said he worked his way up the batting order with a lot of extra hitting (about 2.5 hours a day), whether he was at home or in the cages at the field house.
"We love to win and coach Weatherford loves to win too," Waters said. "We've been putting a lot of extra work on and off the field and it seems to be paying off for us right now."
Waters finished the regular season with a .350 batting average and 19 RBIs.
"Going into the season we didn't know what to expect from Breckin, but he's been very consistent all year," Weatherford said. "What really helped him out this year is begin able to hit the breaking pitch. He's stayed more in the middle of the field and he's done better to let the ball come to him and handle the off-speed stuff."
The road game will be a reprieve for Van Buren (23-7, 12-2 5A West) and will be the first overnight trip for the baseball team since 2019.
The Pointers are going to need all the tools at their disposal when they face Lake Hamilton at 5:30 p.m. to wrap up the first day of the state tournament.
"It's going to give us a chance to get out of town and spend some time together," Weatherford said. "These are the sort of things you remember in high school. It'll be a new experience for some of these guys."
The winner of Thursday's game advances to play either Sheridan or Greenwood on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
"Our goal is to meet up with Jonesboro in the finals and get the 'W'," Waters said. "We'll be ready."