CLEWISTON — If you blinked you might have missed the return of baseball to Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School.
After being absent for a few years due to not having enough players, PECS returned to the diamond Feb. 25 for the start of what was supposed to be a seven-game season. Instead, the global pandemic sliced the season to just three games.
What turned out to be the team’s final game of the season was a tough matchup against an older Clewiston High School’s junior varsity team. PECS didn’t win, nor did it win its other two games, but victories weren’t the primary objective for first-year coach Christian Crews.
His emphasis was on quelling nerves and having fun.
“We have all the tools, but we’re young and we get nervous at game time. I’m just trying to make them have fun,” said Crews, who is a former Okeechobee High baseball player and husband to Tribal member Delaney Osceola.
PECS’ starting lineup included four sixth-graders, so it’s only natural that there was some trepidation facing 9th-and-10th-graders from Clewiston.
Crews hopes this season’s experiences will pave the way toward improvement next year.
“This is more of a learning year. Next year I’ll have tryouts a little earlier and we’ll be able to practice a little bit more ahead of time,” Crews said.
Eighth-graders Jrayko Billie and Jaydence Urbina provided some of the highlights against Clewiston. Billie ripped a clean single up the middle for the team’s first hit; Urbina came on in relief and notched a strikeout to end a bases-loaded threat.
In addition to being on the mound, Billie and Urbina also were the team’s primary catchers. Other pitchers include Brandon Gabbard, Deanthony Torres and Kayden Warrior.
Crews said another goal this season was to help the eighth-graders get ready for high school baseball next season.
Encouraging signs that point to more progress next season include this season’s healthy turnout; the team had plenty of reserves on the bench. Also, enthusiasm and effort have been with the club since day one.
“Everything has been good effort-wise, but we just have to make sure they’re not nervous. We’re young, we’re small and we get really nervous quick,” Crews said.