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Grant Martinson of Eastview [JOEL KOYAMA, Star Tribune photo]
This year’s Eastview baseball team is trying to leave a legacy, so much so that the word is the team motto and printed on the back of every player’s shirt.
Even though the Lightning won its first state championship last year in its first appearance in the tournament, this year’s players don’t want to extend that legacy.
They want to start their own.
“We’re just trying to … carve our own legacy,” senior pitcher and captain Grant Martinson said. “We just want to… make sure that we leave our legacy like those guys in the past have.”
Last year’s team was nearly half seniors, including three of Eastview’s four all-tournament selections. Coach Tom Strey said his Class 3A championship team had collective talent apart from game skills that helped it succeed.
“They knew how to win and they knew how to compete real well,” Strey said. “There was never a moment that was bigger than what they could handle.”
This year’s team is starting to emulate that confidence, he said, but is using the early part of the season to gain experience before embarking on another championship run.
Junior pitcher and outfielder Marcus Frederickson said the experience level makes this year’s team different from the last. It’s the first time many of them have played at the varsity level, he said.
“So we just have to get used to the different difficulty … and skill level,” Frederickson said.
From a coaching perspective, Strey said it has been exciting to see which young players step up and surprise him with their ability.
“These guys have kind of been patient,” Strey said. “They’ve waited their turn and now it’s kind of their chance to do something.”
Last year, the Lightning finished with a 14-5 record. This year, the team has a 6-4 record and sits third in the South Suburban Conference.
While Strey said statistically the two teams are similar, this year’s team shouldn’t strive to repeat last year’s championship results.
“I don’t think they should feel pressure because this is their team,” Strey said. “It’s a new year. You know, it’s not like we have everybody coming back and then they’re looking to repeat. This is a totally new team and so they’re just trying to make their own way.”
Senior shortstop and captain Derek Scheibel said initially his team did think it had to perform just as well as last year’s team.
“We’ve kind of gotten away from that,” Scheibel said. “Now we realize that we’re a good team just as we are with the guys we have. So I think we’re doing pretty well just with our own standards.”
But Martinson said his teammates haven’t forgotten what the graduated players showed them was possible.
“Those guys really modeled it for us,” Martinson said. “They showed us, like, how to work and what it takes to really make a deep run into that state tournament.”
Senior catcher Rhett Hebig said he enjoyed being a part of a championship team that worked so well together. While the 2012 team members left a lofty standard for this year’s team, Hebig said a return to the state tournament would be a bonus, not an obligation.
“We’re just trying to find our own identity and see what ways we can do our own thing,” Hebig said.
Ultimately, the Lightning has one main objective before this season ends.
“Remember us for this year instead of last year,” Frederickson said.
Megan Ryan is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.