A long journey turns out to be a good one for Minutemen.
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
PASADENA – A hostile environment isn’t commonplace when it comes to Southern California high school sports.
Sure, there are area rivalry games where crowds can be loud and intense.
For one area baseball team, a trip out of town turned a bunch of underclassmen into young men – and in a hurry.
Maranatha High School’s baseball team ventured out of the area Tuesday for the CIF-Southern Section Division VI semifinals.
The Minutemen traveled to Bishop for an encounter with Bishop Union High.
While high school sports is full of intense rivalries and venues with wild and crazy fans, Maranatha found itself on a road trip that was unlike any trip it had taken before, and much different than any preseason retreat the team has ever taken.
Following a 13-inning victory over No. 2-seeded Desert Christian on Saturday, the Minutemen spent Memorial Day on a bus en route to Bishop.
The team arrived in the tiny town and it didn’t take too long before the locals knew it had arrived.
“The people in Bishop were very nice and we drove by the field, and their players were very animated upon our arrival,” Maranatha coach Brian DeHaan said.
And, while friendly for the most part, those locals weren’t exactly passing along well wishes.
A peaceful team dinner became a cultural experience for many of the Minutemen players.
“In a way it was kind of fun having a whole town against you,” Maranatha sophomore Danny Beckwith said. “The first night we have dinner and there’s all these people driving by yelling at us. It was kind of tough to deal with in the beginning, but once you start doing well, it was a good feeling.”
Game day came and Maranatha was all business as it headed to the field for the game.
It was an approach which was quite necessary.
An estimated crowd of 350 spectators, mostly Bishop fans, lined the tiny field.
Not only did the fans show up in numbers, they also brought strong vocal cords.
“They have bleachers that are right over the bullpen and they’re yelling at you, trying to get into your head and throwing stuff and it was hard to focus,” Beckwith said.
When Covey got the final out in the seventh, Maranatha had escaped with an 11-6 victory.
As the Minutemen prepare for Saturday’s Division VI championship game against San Jacinto, a team they lost to 5-2 in the second round last season, they do so with all the confidence in the world and knowing they’ll have fans on their side as well.
“That was definitely one of the toughest crowds that I’ve ever been in,” Covey said. “For any other team or set of fans, I don’t think it’ll be any worse than that.”
Added DeHaan: “I played baseball all the way through college and I can honestly say that was the most hostile environment I’ve ever played or coached in.”
“I don’t think anyone was expecting that when we drove up,” Maranatha junior Cory Popham said. “We haven’t faced a team where their whole town and everyone was against us, so much where even when we were just walking around not even playing, they were all over us.”
Added Maranatha sophomore Dylan Covey: “We got a lot of trash the night before from people walking around saying `you’re Maranatha, we’re going to smash you tomorrow.’ It was different.” “I really think a lot of us grew up after that game just because of that experience,” Popham said. “To have that, especially after the 13 innings is just incredible.”