How the Cathedral Baseball Team Faced Adversity to Win it All
Writer & Photographer / Lynda Hedberg Thies
The Cathedral Irish baseball team accomplished what only three other teams in the state of Indiana have accomplished — a perfect season. With a 29-0 record, they became the first Cathedral baseball team to go undefeated and win the state championship. A remarkable accomplishment for the Irish, who had the odds stacked against them and found a way to not only win but achieve perfection for a season.
The Irish faced a level of adversity that would make most programs justify that it was a rebuilding year, especially since they were not mentioned in any preseason polls. Big deal right? But this team had only three returning starters, they lost the only coach they knew, and they lost the only field they knew when Lawrence Township did not renew the school’s contract for Hair Field. That meant these boys played every single game on the road all season. This was a big deal. Yes, it is easy to be joyful when you are winning, but when you are not expected to win, the season can take on a whole new purpose.
Sometimes a team strategy happens completely by default, as was the case when a few of the seniors got the idea to grow out their mustaches during the team’s first week of baseball during spring break. Just some boys and Hair Club for Men for facial hair. What could go wrong?
They planned to have them during the break because of the school’s no facial hair policy. But when the team won every game, the boys were too superstitious to shave them off because of a policy. So, they reached out to Cathedral President Rob Bridges to ask permission to keep them. Bridges agreed but requested that they would shave them off when they lost. The boys took on the challenge and #SaveTheStache was born. Win after win they maintained them even when it wasn’t convenient, which meant they would go to prom and graduation with them. Although their dates and moms were not so thrilled, there was no turning back.
Eventually the coaching staff got in on the fun, too.
It was easy to get behind this team because they had overcome so much adversity, but along the way the team’s bond strengthened and the energy and momentum continued to swing in their favor. It was obvious this was a united team having the time of their lives, playing the game they loved.
A Look Back
So much has been written already about this team, but with the season just barely in the rear-view mirror, we invited five players on Cathedral, senior IU Commit and lead pitcher, Nick Eaton, second baseman and closing pitcher Tommy Kafka, 4-year starting catcher, senior Charlie Gomez, Louisville commit shortstop and junior, Jared Poland, and utility player, senior Evan Thies, to reflect and share their favorite memories, how they will remember this season and what lessons they learned that they will take with them in the future. Their responses show that this was special and cared deeply for each other, for the game of baseball and how much this perfect season truly meant to them.
What were your favorite memories of this season?
Nick Eaton & Tommy Kafka: “When we all dog-piled on Victory Field after winning the state championship!”
Jared Poland: “Overcoming sectionals for the first time in three years.”
Charlie Gomez: “Golf after practice tradition.”
Evan Thies: “The first practice of the year, snow on the ground and 30 degrees and Ross Kirkpatrick is wearing a t-shirt.”
Best part of the season?
Tommy Kafka: “Being doubted the entire season and finishing undefeated.”
Nick Eaton: “Messing around at practice and playing baseball like a bunch of little kids.”
Jared Poland: “The celebrations on the bus after sectional, regional, semi-state and state championships.”
Charlie Gomez: “Eating cereal at the after party.”
Evan Thies: “Spring Break games and the beginning of the mustaches.”
How will you remember this season and this team?
Tommy Kafka: “I will remember the season and the state championship by the bonds my teammates and I made and by the medal we won.”
Jared Poland: “I will remember our practices being fun and relaxed before games. I will also remember the chemistry we had all year and how we all enjoyed every day of preparation for trying to win the state championship. I will also remember how relaxed we stayed for each game and that we treated every game as just another game, which ultimately helped us stay loose to win games. I will always remember the tough state game where we battled the whole time, and the home run Evan Uhland hit for the winning run.”
Nick Eaton: “Playing baseball the way it should be played — loose and fun.”
Charlie Gomez: “Like a movie. It doesn’t feel real yet.”
Evan Thies: “I will always remember it as a group of guys that were as close and united as I’ve ever had the privilege of being on a team with.”
What lessons did you learn that you will take with you going forward?
Tommy Kafka: “A lesson I learned from this season is to always stick together because many people working together will take you much further than just one.”
Jared Poland: “I learned that talent doesn’t win championships. Good team chemistry and a strong desire to win is what we had. That is how we finished undefeated and won state. We didn’t have the most talented team in the state, but we had a very solid one and the best team chemistry. We all got along and each game was fun because of the energy Ross Kirkpatrick brought and that was a major key to winning.”
Nick Eaton: “I learned to cherish every moment possible with your teammates.”
Charlie Gomez: “I learned how having fun and enjoying every moment of life is more important than you may think.”
Evan Thies: “Everyone was playing for each other, and not for themselves as individuals. We all had a bigger goal in mind that trumped whatever personal gain could have been accomplished.”
As the team celebrates the season and closes out the high school careers of the nine seniors, they look with optimism to the future of Cathedral baseball at Brunette Park and the legacy they have left behind. The Irish finally have their forever home, and though these seniors didn’t have home field advantage all year, it’s easy to see that they made themselves at home wherever they played.