June 7th, 2017

Trinity baseball culture a championship formula

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Conor Revell

Staff Writer

Trinity baseball culture a championship formula
Trinity's Ben Metzinger takes a hard cut at a pitch / photo by Conor Revell

Trinity’s baseball program has undergone a culture change in a blink of an eye.  And it has put the Shamrocks back on the map in the baseball world.

“Hard work every day, that is what has gotten this program back,” Trinity head coach Rick Arnold said. “We always joke about two and a half hour practices and how they sometimes go over but they never complain. This year and last year I never heard one player complain. In my first year there was a big learning curve. They do what we ask when we ask. That’s a formula to win a championship. It’s the willingness to work.”

A few years ago the Rocks were struggling to stay over .500, three years later the Shamrocks are 32-5, their first 30 win season in 11 years.

“Coach Arnold has established a culture,” Trinity outfielder Matt Higgins said. “We have really established ourselves with a winning mindset and that has made us a dominant team. It’s a really confident culture. We have a lot of fun at practices but we also make sure we get our work done.”

In 2013 the Shamrocks were stunned and lost to Atherton in the 27th District championship game, finished with a 16-16 record, and lost in the Seventh Region championship game.

Much of the same occurred the following season when the Shamrocks went 18-18 and lost in the regional final for a second straight year.

Arnold then took over the program and the Trinity baseball program went through an almost instant transformation overnight.

“What really got us here was the hard work during the offseason,” Arnold said. “They lift three days a week during the offseason. During the fall we worked on the field a few days a week for those that weren’t in a fall sport and volunteered to come. We were getting baseball skill work four days week and then the reality of that allowed us to be ready to go when February came rather working on fundamentals at the beginning of the season.”

Trinity went 25-10 in Arnold’s first season but got unlucky and drew Male as its first round opponent in the Seventh Region Tournament where its season came to a streaking halt.

Arnold’s second season looked to be a special one as the Rocks finished the season with a 29-7 record that included a 24-1-1 stretch where they surged to the top spot in multiple polls.

“I think we’ve had to work real hard and that’s where it started,” Trinity pitcher Brandon Pfaadt said. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm year-round within the program and a lot of intensity. We’ve had to condition and build strength during the offseason.”

But the Rocks got unlucky for a second straight year and drew Male as its first round opponent again and saw its season come to a close.

Everybody knew Trinity was going to be a force to be reckoned with during the 2016-17 season as the Rocks spent nearly the entire season as the top ranked team.

“I think last fall we knew that we could be something special,” Trinity catcher Ben Metzinger said. “We had a really good fall season. We were having a lot of good practices. There was a lot of interaction and we had a lot of fun this past fall.”

Trinity went into the Seventh Region Tournament with a 29-5 record but lo and behold, the Rocks had to get past Male in the opening round again.

But this year was different, the Rocks shutout Male 2-0 and advanced to the Seventh Region semifinals for the first time since 2014.

“It started back in August when school started and travel ball ended,” Higgins said. “We went right to work. We have a really good strength and training program and a lot of guys came and built muscle. That gave us a lot of power in our lineup. I think this offseason has prepared us the most than the other few years.”

From there the Rocks had to battle it out with Manual in the semifinals before walking away with an 8-6 victory and then defeated longtime archrival St. Xavier 7-6 in the regional championship game.

“We have learned how to handle baseball on a different level,” Arnold said. “All these kids have played their whole lives. We’ve focused on who is going to handle the moment and who is going to appreciate that opportunity whether it’s success or failure. This year these kids have learned how to compete at a different level.”

It was Trinity’s first regional title since 2009. For many, it signaled the baseball program was back considering the Rocks won four regional championships from 2002 to 2009 under the guidance of Steven Thompkins.

“I think we learned a lot from playing St. X at Slugger Field and losing,” Metzinger said. “We were excited and tried to do too much. At Patterson we were focused and knew that we just needed to do what we do best.”

The top-ranked Rocks will play No. 2 McCracken County in the first round of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament at 11 a.m. Friday. 


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