The Scotlandville baseball team has a fairly simple mindset this season.
“Refuse to lose.”
The phrase has been the Hornets’ motto all year, and the club has done a pretty good job living up to it.
Scotlandville is off to a 15-2-1 start to the 2016 campaign — the best in school history — and is winning in impressive fashion.
The Hornets have chalked up double-digit runs in 13 of their 18 games, including a 34-run outing last week in a tournament against Episcopal of Acadiana.
“We believed we could be this good,” senior shortstop Melvin Butler said. “We wanted it — we wanted it bad. Refuse to lose. That’s our mentality. We refuse to lose. Whatever it takes, we’re going to find a way.”
The success is a product of the vision Scotlandville coach Darren Clark had when he arrived on campus five years ago.
Clark took over a program coming off a 5-15 record with an 0-12 showing in district play and immediately showed signed of promise, improving the club to 9-12 in his first season, followed by back-to-back years with winning records of 13-12 and 14-13.
A slight drop-off to a 9-16 showing last season has been answered with the resounding start Clark and Co. have put together this year. The fifth-year coach passes the credit to a core group of six seniors that have bought in to Clark’s vision from Day 1 and helped steer the ship in the right direction.
“The group I have now, I’ve had them for the last four years,” Clark said. “They all came in as ninth-graders and worked well together. We started out with 11 freshmen, and we ended up with six who are now seniors. Those six are the ones who have bought into the program. They were disciplined, and they worked hard and made baseball their top priority.”
No doubt the experience has made a difference.
The group of six seniors started off playing 10-12 games per year, mainly against local kids from their area. Compare that to the 40-50 games other big-time baseball programs in Scotlandville’s district play, and the difference was noticeable.
“The biggest thing is they know the game now,” Clark said. “A lot of them now play summer ball, fall ball and spring, so they’re playing year-round baseball. And they’ve improved a lot, whereas their ninth-grade year they made a lot of mistakes because they were playing fewer games. There was a lot of stuff they didn’t know. They’ve even taking their own time to do their own research on baseball and studying the game. And being students of the game has made them into better baseball players.”
The effort from both sides has shown.
The team has been successful on the field, and the program is flourishing off it.
Clark said the school finally has a full junior varsity and varsity program, allowing the players to develop at the proper pace and giving the upperclassmen enough experience to compete with the top dogs in the district.
“When (Clark) first started, it was all six of us there,” said Butler, one of those six seniors. “He was telling us that if we stick around, work hard and listen to what he’s saying and do the right thing, that all of it will pay off. Right now, it’s paying off. It feels great. We’re more together now. It’s like a brotherhood. We’ve been around each other so long. We’re more like leaders now.”
The Hornets still have their biggest challenge ahead of them, though.
They have to find a way to win ballgames in one of the toughest districts in the state, featuring perennial powers like Zachary, Denham Springs, Live Oak, Central and Walker — all of which made the payoffs last season.
“Our goal was to make the playoffs,” senior second baseman Ivan Cain said. “We all just came together as one and talked to the team. We have to listen to what Coach tells us, do it right, and we’ll get there. You’ve got to be an animal on the field. We’ve got to stay focused. We do have one of the toughest districts in the whole state. Everyone in our district is pretty good.”