LIBERTY — Nate Chester never had a hard time looking for motivation heading into his senior year of baseball at Liberty North.
Every time he looked in the mirror, Chester saw physical reminders of the Eagles’ early exit after slipping in the playoffs, and he would remember what he needs to do to help his team go further this season.
The visible reminders weren’t scars from a nasty slide into home or anything like that.
“I put sticky notes on my mirror with individual and team goals,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had to take those down.”
The shortstop and his nine other senior teammates won’t have the opportunity to improve upon their district semifinals loss with a deep playoff run after school closures ended the 2020 season.
Liberty head coach Ryan Stegall said this group looked primed to reach the goals Chester had to pull down.
“I felt like their leadership and the way they went about their offseason, from tryouts to workouts, anything we had, the seniors led the way,” Stegall said.
Stegall said this year’s team has one of the strongest pitching rotations he’s seen during his 10 years at Liberty North. Seniors Caden Wilson, Corbin Kambradt and Lindon Curley gave the Eagles a trio of college-level pitchers.
Wilson will play at Missouri State, Kambradt at Central Missouri and Curley at Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kansas. Chester is signed on to play at Mizzou.
First baseman/catcher Chase Jones, outfielders Jake VanDyne and Luke Mathews, catcher Tyler Worley, pitcher/infielder Brock Gray and infielder Jayden McGinness rounded out the group of seniors.
“When you get a group like I had, the excitement that they brought to the field each day and their leadership, it was probably a little tougher to let go of those guys,” Stegall said. “It still hasn’t really sunk in completely.”
Stegall said the team remained optimistic up until the moment when Gov. Mike Parson ordered school closures to remain through the rest of the academic year. MSHSAA responded with the cancellation of spring championship events shortly thereafter.
“(The coaches) had a good feeling the entire time, and I think the boys did too with MSHSAA holding onto hope that they could play some type of season at the end,” Stegall said. “I was really appreciative of the way they held up and didn’t cancel anything until the schools did.”
Stegall still remains optimistic that his team will find a way to get one last opportunity to play together, even if it’s an intrasquad game in June or July.
“It’s really tough,” Stegall said. “I have four guys going to play college ball and six more seniors that will never get to play again.”
Chester had planned to play on a college prep team out of Ohio this summer, but due to the uncertainty surrounding when that season might start, he decided to play in the Ban Johnson League in Kansas City if baseball resumes.
“It will be nice to be able to play baseball in the Midwest with more practicing and less traveling,” Chester said. “I’m looking forward to it. It sucks that we don’t get to play for a state championship, but we’ll get past that, adapt to it and make it positive.”