EDMOND — Exhuasted and out of breath from running sprints after a 15-5 summer tournament loss to Edmond North, outfielder Hunter Chism said the first thing that came to mind.
“It’s hot out here,” he said plainly of the 91-degree late spring afternoon.
The running totaled five sprints this day — not running out fly balls, failing to back up plays, etc. were the culprits.
Chism and his Wildcat teammates still had another game to play less than an hour later, their 10th game in seven days. So much for summer break.
Trying to balance being competitive and improving individually while still enjoying summer isn’t always easy for athletes like Chism. Time in a day can run short quickly.
“I’d say it’s hard, because being a kid in the summer you kind of want to take it really laid back,” he said. “But I think the approach has to be to come out here with a mindset to win, but still to have fun.”
Chism and a few of his Piedmont teammate’s summers are complicated more by offseason football responsibilities. It takes extra dedication to stay on top of things, but pays off in the end, he said.
“You’ve got to get to bed early and keep a good mindset,” he said. “But all in all baseball keeps you in condition for football, then summer pride starts and it gets you stronger for baseball season. The two go together.”
Piedmont’s leading returner hitter heading into next season, Chism is likely to start in center field and bat in the middle of the order. He’ll be one of nine seniors determined to improve on last season’s 19-16 campaign that ended short of the regional finals.
“The coaches want us to step up and be vocal leaders,” Chism said. “Because that’s going to help us improve the team as a whole and help us go farther in the playoffs and reach our goal of going to state.”
“We’re doing some things with them to get them used to kind of taking the reins,” Piedmont assistant coach Todd Brown, who serves as head coach during the summer, said. “Not just here in the summer, but in the spring as well.”
This year, ummer ball has more of an edge to it than normal. For the first time in head coach Kory Williams’ five-year tenure, last year Piedmont failed to reach a regional final. Something that didn’t sit well with Chism.
From a team standpoint, Chism thinks the talent is there to win games in the spring, and that for now building camaraderie is more important than wins and losses.
“I think a big thing would have to be chemistry,” he said. “You’re going to be spending January through May playing baseball with the same guys. The better your chemistry, the better you’ll do as a team.”
Chism will likely play a big role in it all, on and off the field. He hit .351 with a team-high 28 runs scored last season, but hopes to add a more consistent approach at the plate this summer while polishing up his defense.
“I feel like last year I started out really hot then kind of hit a dry spot and leveled out,” he said.
With his breath back now, Chism, who earned the team one of the sprints for not hustling to first, showed his maturity.
“We can be laid back and have fun, but then again we can’t take it too lightly,” he said.