In their fifth year of competing in the middle school league, the Seymour eighth-grade baseball team made history.
Following a successful regular season, the Owls defeated Borden 15-0, Charlestown 16-0, Brownstown 17-1 before reaching the championship game of the Southern Indiana Middle School League Tournament.
In their final game of the season, on June 6, the Owls defeated Austin 7-6 to capture their first league crown.
The seventh and eighth leagues, started by Owls varsity coach Jeremy Richey and a group of other high school heads, started with 10 teams.
Now, around 30 teams represented by seven cities are a part of the the league spanning as far North as Seymour and South as New Albany.
While the seventh and eighth-graders typically play separately, some of the smaller schools condense to make a singular squad.
“Two years ago, our current incoming sophomores were the seventh-grade runners up, losing to Floyd Central in championship,” Richey said. “Its exciting. When you have success at younger levels, hopefully it carries to when they get older. Success keeps interest, and as long as they stay interested we can make them better.
“That goes all the way down to our 6-year-olds. We’re excited where baseball is in our lower levels and this has generated more excitement.”
The main intent of the league is to prepare middle-schoolers for high school baseball.
While the league is for middle schools, it’s run by high school coaches.
“Its a great experience for them to start playing with kids they will have on the same team in high school,” Richey said. “They will play travel ball, youth league and all those things but they don’t really play together other than with the middle school team.”
Deryk Baurle and Dan Hodge headed the eighth-grade team this year while Richey acts as an administrator.
Seymour’s seventh-grade team was coached by Brett Stuckwisch and Kyle Christopher with the help of several parents.
This year’s season went from the end of March through the last week of May prior to the postseason tourney.
In games, the kids play on high school regulated diamonds. The Owls practice and play all of their games on the high school field.
“We’re playing high school distance from the pitching mound and bases,” Baurle said. “For a seventh-grader, it’s tough for these kids. Throwing a ball from third base to first is a hard throw for them. It’s a lot shorter in some of the other leagues they play in. Leading off is new and pitchers are trying to pick off kids now. We’re trying to introduce them to high school baseball.”
Some of the teams the Owls played, such as New Albany, Floyd Central and Jeffersonville, are in the Hoosier Hills Conference.
The Owls playing in the middle school league will see the same opponents once they reach the high school.
“It was neat to see this whole class, who are going to be freshmen next year, and go through high school together, have success as one unit,” Baurle said. “We really preached in the tournament that it was about being a team. Coach Hodge stressed the word of the day which was ‘fifteen.’
“There were 15 boys at that game and every one of them was important. It turned out the game winning hit was by a substitute and the game winning run was by a sub pinch runner. Everybody was important.”
This year, the Owls had 23 seventh-graders and 18 eighth-graders on the roster.
Since there was so many seventh-graders, they were split into two equal teams.
For the program, having a large turnout is a good problem to have.
“We like those huge numbers in middle school because when they get to high school they’re going to maybe stick to playing a certain sport and the numbers start to go down,” Richey said. “Its great to have those numbers there because we know we have a chance to have a big class like our seniors we have coming in this year.”