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Knights add to accolades with five All-State honorees

POSTED: June 7, 2014 12:00 p.m.

The hits keep coming for Bethlehem Christian Academy baseball, as five Knights were named to the GISA Class-A All-State baseball team earlier this week. 

Luke Allen, Jacob Fincher, PJ Klein, Jacob Parker and Brady Stewart all now have an individual honor to add to their collection of state championship rings.

“Those upperclassmen set the atmosphere for the rest of the team,” Colby May, head coach for Bethlehem Christian baseball, said in recognition of his five All-State honorees. “When it comes to game time, they’ve got to compete. The coaches can’t do what they’re doing.”

This year’s crop of All-State Knights follow in the footsteps of a great group before them, with the 2013 team sending four to the list. Unfortunately for first-year head coach Colby May, those four previous All-State representatives were graduated seniors by the time this season came around. 

In the end, though, this new crop of Knights were able to manage just fine without any seniors on the team, and that was due in large part to the leadership of the juniors.

“It was definitely challenging not having those seniors, and only three of those guys started on the team last year,” May acknowledged. “It was definitely a big step for them coming in and learning everything and just buying in to the program.

“Just to see them grow as sophomores and to see them come in their junior year, to see the improvement of their character and their baseball ability…starting varsity at such a young age and doing what they did, that was just huge. They were big for us.”

The five All-State honorees were leaders off the field, of course, but also on the field. Fincher turned in a .391 batting average with 28 RBIs, which compares nicely to Allen’s .356 average and 29 RBIs, while Klein hit .266 with 18 RBIs. 

Sophomores Parker and Stewart also hit very well, with Parker hitting a remarkably consistent .442 average with 23 RBIs and Stewart recording a .339 average for 15 RBIs.

“It really says a lot about the kids we have,” May added. “I’m really proud of the younger guys for coming in, and I’m thankful that we had the upperclassmen to come in and pour into those younger guys and show servant leadership.”

May admitted that servant leadership was a large part of his plan for the 2014 Knights, and those three juniors signed on to the program with no reservation. It especially impressed May how the juniors made sure to make the younger guys feel welcome on the team without some of the usual hazing.

“They were the ones picking up the trash. They weren’t telling the freshmen or sophomores to do all that. They were being servant leaders…and I think that helped these younger guys feel like they were part of the team and really brought the team together,” May noted.

On top of servant leadership, May praised his leaders for their selflessness and their willingness to pick the team up, even in rough patches.

“That’s what wins championships. You can’t be selfish,” May said. “If you’re selfish, it’ll bite you.”

Three of the five All-State honorees from Bethlehem were also crucial on the mound in 2014, with Fincher, Allen and Klein all turning in great numbers as pitchers. Klein, who handled a lion’s share of the pitching with 52 innings, finished the season with a 2.42 ERA and five wins. Allen started to take on a bigger role on the mound as the season progressed, as he ended up starting Game 3 of the state championship series and delivered a one-run win to add on to his 2.14 ERA with 32 innings pitched and three wins. Fincher managed to end the season with a respectable 3.15 ERA on his 20 innings and also three wins.

While May appreciates the skill these young men possess, he is most appreciative of the obvious character they bring to the game, and he knows that character is what will most benefit them down the road.

“Baseball teaches you so many life skills, and it’s just really cool to see these guys learn that. They’ll keep these life skills long beyond baseball,” May noted. “That servant leadership will take them far in life no matter what they’re doing. Hopefully they play baseball as long as possible.

“It’s really good for the coaching staff to have that,” May added, once again nothing the selflessness and character of his players.

“That helped us get through some stuff that we may not have gotten through and could have gone the opposite way.”

After a year of learning which leaders would step up from the previous crop, May now has the pleasure of watching these young men get one more year under their belt as the men on the team others look up to. Instead of spending time figuring out who the leaders are to start the next season as they had to do to start 2014, May and his Knights know right off the bat who to see leadership from early on.

“It’s real encouraging. Even the sophomores and freshmen were leaders. When our upper class was struggling, our younger guys were getting the job done. When our upper class was getting the job done, they were picking up the younger guys,” May stated. “It was cool to see, and that’ll get us ready for AAA. This year’s been a good starting point for us.”

As two-time defending state champions, Bethlehem will enter the highest classification in GISA with quite the reputation to uphold. Then again, these five All-State men and their teammates know what it takes to win, and they look forward to convincing GISA Class-AAA of that fact in due time.

Until then, though, May hopes that his team can hold on to the lessons they learned from each other this past year and just continue to grow as young men of character.

“It’s a game of life. Usually, when your character, you’ve got all that together…baseball is going to work out for you. It shows in these five guys. I couldn’t ask for better. Their clutch performances, their hits, their pitching, all of that,” May praised. “And the way they get it done in the classroom. They get good grades. They’re respecting their teachers. They respect the game itself and they don’t take shortcuts. They work hard day-in and day-out. That’s what has made those guys successful.”

As valuable as success has been in teaching the Knights these past two years, though, May also knows that the team can learn just as much from failure.

“That’s the great thing about baseball. If you take care of business outside the game and you avoid taking shortcuts, you’re going to have success in the game,” May said. “That’s why it’s such a great lesson for life.

“You might go through failures and setbacks in life. When you’re done with baseball and you’re in your working life, you may have tough times. In baseball, you fail so much, but then that little bit of success you have can determine whether you win the baseball game or not. You just keep fighting, just like life,” May noted.

“That’s what baseball teaches you so well, and it’s great to see these guys getting it. It’s not about the wins or the losses. It’s about the character these guys build.”

Although these five men will likely return to the diamond for Bethlehem in the follow-up to their second consecutive state championship and should provide leadership, it will be fun to see who learns from these five and finds their own place as a leader both in the statistics and in the dugout. 

“It’s going to be real fun next year, no matter what happens. It’s going to be a great year having those guys return,” May concluded. “It’s all going to help them way beyond baseball.” 

 

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