COLUMBIA – The navy and gold is a start. Everything else will take time.
If the Battle High School baseball team wants any consolation during a rough start to its first season, it should have looked across the diamond Saturday afternoon.
Liberty North, wearing the same colors as the expansion Spartans, beat up on Battle 11-1 at the Rock Bridge baseball field. The Eagles are 8-1 and sixth in the Class 5 state coach's poll. Just four years ago, the Kansas City area school was in the same position that Battle finds itself in today.
After his team beat Rock Bridge and before it played Battle on Saturday, Eagles coach Ryan Stegall said that he sees a lot of similarities between the Spartans and the first-year group he had four years ago.
"You're gonna take your licks for a while," Stegall said. "But there's no way to speed up experience."
The little things, which turn into bigger things, are what hurt Battle. Like when a ground ball bounces off a player's glove because he pulled his head up too early. Or when a pitcher tries to pick off a runner at first base but throws the ball to the fence.
Battle coach Jared Wood is well aware of this.
"Their coach and I talked, and he said we might even be a little ahead of where they were at this time," Wood said. "But we just have to string some innings together. We're in these ballgames through the first couple innings.
"We just have to stop dropping our heads when things don't go well."
In four years, Wood would love to be where Liberty North is now. After all, the two teams both wear navy and gold jerseys. A casual observer could've mistaken Saturday's game for an intrasquad scrimmage.
The Spartans hope they saw their future in Liberty North. But Wood said they have to do it as a team.
However, Battle lost one of its players, junior Marshall Willingham, who quit the team this past week. He said he plans to focus his energy on the Battle football team in hopes of winning a state championship. Wood said his departure won't be a distraction and the team will move on.
It's all part of the learning experience.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.