Baseball Strikes Out the Competition

Sanwi Sarode, Staff Writer

UIL sports across AISD were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, UIL sports such as baseball were able to start practicing and competing once again.

Sophomore baseball player Will Strandwitz said that because most of last year’s season was canceled, he wasn’t sure what this season would look like. He said he is glad that the season was able to go on despite the circumstances and thankful that it turned out to be an enjoyable experience.

“My first high school season, which was last year, got canceled after about three games, so I didn’t get a good foundation for what it was going to look like,” Will Strandwitz said. “I went into it with an open mind, and I didn’t know what I was going to get, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the amount of quality playing and caliber teammates that I’ve been able to play with.”

Senior baseball player and brother to Will, Tom Strandwitz has played for the team for the past three years. Tom Strandwitz said that he is glad to get to play his last season before college.

“I was really looking forward to getting my last season of baseball in before I closed that chapter of my life and moved on to college,” Tom Strandwitz said. “I didn’t get a season last year; it got canceled, so I was really looking forward to playing again because I hadn’t played a full season since sophomore year two years ago.”

According to Tom Strandwitz, the baseball team is a friendly environment to be part of. He said that the easygoing atmosphere is part of what makes it a pleasant experience.

“The team dynamic is a very comfortable atmosphere,” Tom Strandwitz said. “Everybody’s a family, and everybody’s trying to help each other out and teach other people how to get better. It’s overall just really fun and a low-pressure atmosphere where it doesn’t feel like you have to perform or you’ll get in trouble.”

Coach Eric Martanovic said that despite this year’s many challenges, the team has been able to stick together. Martanovic said that despite the pandemic, the players have still been able to form friendships and show their strength as a team.

“Our team dynamic has always been one of collaboration and togetherness,” Martanovic said. “This year has certainly provided challenges; however, I feel the relationships are still strong among the players and a strength that is leveraged during game time.”

According to Tom Strandwitz, LASA’s baseball season had a strong start this year. He said that their main goal for this season was to make the playoffs.

“So far, we’ve been doing pretty well,” Tom Strandwitz said. “We’re third in district right now, which is kinda where we expected to be. There were a couple games where we probably could have edged it out if we had executed a little better. But right now, we’re at a pretty good spot, and we’re still looking to make playoffs at the end of the season.”

The baseball season begins with scrimmages and tournaments against teams outside of LASA’s district before intradistrict games begin. Will Strandwitz said that the preseason games help prepare the team for its regular season.

“We started off with tournament play, which is where, as a program, we would go to different parts of Austin and play in different groupings of teams,” Will Strandwitz said. “So we’ll play 6A teams, we’ll play 5A teams from different parts of Texas just to get warmed up for the season and we will do district play where every school in Texas is assigned to a different district. We’re doing pretty well — I think we’re a little over 50% wins, and I want to say we’re third in the district right now, but we’re working to get our spot in the playoffs.”

Martanovic said that many of the younger players had to step up after many of the team’s top players graduated. According to Martanovic, these younger players will grow to help the team excel in the future.

“Our season has been going well,” Martanovic said. “Last year, we graduated 14 seniors, and some of our younger players have stepped up in big ways. This has paid dividends now in our playoff race and will continue to be a benefit for us in future seasons as they get bigger, faster  and stronger.”

As LASA’s UIL split from LBJ was last year, this is LASA’s first ever baseball season on its own. Tom Strandwitz said that being a senior on this first team makes him a role model and he appreciates the responsibility of leading the underclassmen. 

“I feel like it’s an honor to be an upperclassman on an inaugural team because that really puts me in a leadership position,” Tom Strandwitz said. “I enjoy being able to set the standard for how the program will look in the future and what kind of values we want to instill in the younger players so that they can keep those traditions and values going as well.”

Tom Strandwitz said that some of the values that he hopes to pass on are community and teamwork. He added that it feels good to be able to rely on your teammates and have a group that understands one another and works well together. 

“As hard as you try you can’t win baseball by yourself,” Tom Strandwitz said. “You’re not the only one making plays and you have to rely on your teammates.”

According to Will Strandwitz, another important aspect of baseball is having fun. He said that the game is more about working with each other and building a community than winning or losing.

“I’d say the most important thing is having fun,” Will Strandwitz said. “Baseball, yes, it is a competition, but it really is just a game. Everyone who plays just has to remember that at the end of the day, we’re all just playing to have fun.”

Will Strandwitz said that he likes baseball because it’s a good opportunity to meet new people since most classes are currently taking place on Zoom. He enjoys spending time with his teammates and working with them during games. 

“I just enjoy being out there with people that I know and the sense of almost camaraderie that you get from working together with people,” Will Strandwitz said. “It’s like we’re all overcoming having to be virtual all year, and for all of us to be out there is a really great opportunity, and it feels really good to finally be able to compete after so long of having to wait.”

Martanovic is also glad to be coaching again this season. According to Martanovic, watching the team develop is one of the best parts of being a coach.

“I have enjoyed the emergence of new faces and seeing this senior group develop in their final year,” Martanovic said. “I feel that they have accomplished so much in their development on and off the field. To see them take the field and showcase their development and ability is certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of being a coach in my eyes.”