‘The Sho’ from Kansas is coming to the big time
They call it “The Sho,” and in Chanute, Kan., the Neosho County Community College baseball team is definitely the show.
Don’t believe it? Just get yourself a Twitter account and start following coach Steve Murry and his legion of Twitter fans. Or friend him on Facebook.
Or log onto YouTube, search “Neosho baseball” and watch the videos that as soon as the Panthers won the Central District title, went viral, with nearly 2,000 views in a matter of hours.
“You have to in a small town,” Murry said of the social media push. “To get any publicity at all, you have to go that route. It’s kind of neat and fun for the alumni to follow.”
Murry has only been using Twitter for the past three months, but has been on Facebook for several years.
“I’ve got 755 followers,” he said. “I’m a baseball coach at a juco. It’s kind of neat and it’s a great way (to get recruits to take notice). I’ve had kids who are 14 years old tell me, ‘I want to play for you; I saw your videos.’ It’s very complimentary.”
Social media, though, doesn’t win ballgames. Pitching, hitting and defense do, and the Panthers (48-14) have that.
The pitching staff has an ERA of 1.86.
“That’s just stupid,” Murry said. “These guys are good. The funniest thing is, it’s basically the same pitchers we had last year. They were pretty good last year but they were freshmen. They don’t let things like not scoring runs hurt them. If we only score two runs, they don’t feel pressure this year.”
Start with Matt Strahm, a sophomore left-hander who is 8-3 with a 1.37 ERA, with 10 complete games and three shutouts in 13 starts. He’s struck out 124 batters and walked all of 22.
Chance Sinclair, a freshman right-hander, is 8-2 with a 1.41 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 18 walks. Adam Giacalone is a sophomore righty who also plays first base and is the second-leading hitter on the team. On the mound he’s 8-3 with a 1.72 ERA, 84 strikeouts and four walks. Six of his 13 starts have been complete games and he, like Sinclair, has shut out two opponents.
Giacalone is hitting .407 with 57 RBI and a dozen home runs. He’s made only four errors for a .990 fielding average.
Daniel Peterson, another sophomore right-hander, is 7-2 with a 1.88 ERA, five complete games in 12 starts and 59 strikeouts to 11 walks.
Max Ising is the closer, with a 6-0 record, 10 saves and a 0.79 ERA in 24 appearances.
It’s not just pitching that’s led Neosho to a 48-14 record. The Panthers have a .305 team batting average, led by David Bote, a freshman shortstop from Thornton.
He’s got a .420 batting average with 15 doubles and 46 RBI in 57 games and is fielding .918. Bote, who transferred from Liberty University, got hit by a pitch earlier this season, which left him with a broken nose and a concussion.
“We lost four one-run games that weekend,” Murry said. “I think we’ve only lost one game since then. That got us down but all of a sudden they realized, ‘We better get this done.’ ‘’
The Panthers know all too well what happens when they don’t get it done — they went into the Central District tournament expecting to be playing for a berth in the JUCO World Series. Instead, they headed back to Chanute after going 0-2. It was about as low as Murry has seen a team, but it lit a fire for this season.
“If you watch the video, it’s a great indication of how bad they felt,” he said. “When we lost last year in the district, it was like the world came to an end. We truly thought we had the best team. They all thought, ‘How can I make this work, because I don’t want to have that same horrid feeling again this year.’ ‘’
They did it with a grueling offseason conditioning program and pitcher Kenny McKee’s videos, a reminder of what they were trying to achieve.
His most recent video, “The Goal,” was the highlights and celebration from winning the Central District tournament. In five days online, it had more than 2,500 views. “Together We Will,” the first video, has had nearly 5,000 views in a six-month span, and “The Journey” has 4,300.
“This is the loosest group I’ve ever seen,” Murry said. “They’re just themselves. They’re great kids.”
They’re kids who don’t mind living in a small town in the middle of Kansas with not much to do other than play baseball.
“We’ve had pretty good success and kids tend to go on to bigger and better (schools),” Murry said.
The Panthers take those players and make them better, the job of a junior college coach, he said.
“They’re willing to put in two years in a small town with nice people and go on somewhere that’s good,” he said. “Some want to go to a big town but maybe not get what you get here. We lose kids like that, like Cisco (Texas, College). But the kids that come through our program and stay, it ends up being a little more special.
“We love our kids and our kids love us. We’re hard on them; we’re their parents away from their parents.”