Over the past two seasons, Baylor School's baseball team has set itself apart from the TSSAA Division II-AA field while also achieving national respect.
A Red Raiders team filled with college talent aimed to beat everyone in its path, but the players were also addicted to spending every hour they could on the diamond even when no one else was watching.
"My favorite memory was in early May, when it gets to be bright late into the day, and after practice the guys and I would go eat dinner and come right back down to the field and turn the lights on at the field and hit BP until we had to go back to the dorm or go home," said senior first baseman and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football signee Christian Martin, who helped the program win a second straight state championship last season with a team-leading .402 batting average.
"As a team we just loved the game so much that it wasn't a grind, it was more of we just couldn't get enough of it. We constantly pushed each other. With as much talent and knowledge for the game we had, it made playing the game second nature. It's what we all wanted to do, and we constantly wanted to be the best."
Taking after his favorite baseball player — former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter — Gehrig Ebel also left his lasting mark on a program that was recently tabbed as one of the top 100 high school athletic teams in the country by MaxPreps. The Red Raiders went a combined 51-12 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons while scoring 82 runs over their past 11 TSSAA state tournament games and allowed only seven runs in five Spring Fling games last season.
Having been a member of Baylor's varsity team since eighth grade, Ebel played every position except first base and right field. The Virginia Tech signee, who primarily caught and played the infield, batted .361 last season and has left a lasting impression.
"It's going to be weird not seeing Gehrig in there all the time," Baylor coach Greg Elie said. "Whether we had practice or not, he was working out on his own. He was a gym rat and has helped lay the foundation so well with all four of our seniors."
Senior Taylor Shahan brought defensive wizardry to center field, a position he likes to study after MLB outfielder Kevin Pillar. Through working with coach John Shoemaker and Coach Elie, he "tested his limits" and made outstanding plays.
Shahan's favorite play was a game-ending diving catch in the left-center field gap near the warning track, which he proceeded to follow by standing up and firing a shot to first base for a double play to beat Brentwood Academy in a two-run game.
"It's not my favorite because of the play itself, but it's one of my top moments because I came through for my team when they needed me the most," said Shahan, who hit .330 and was a stolen base threat for the Red Raiders hitting in the ninth spot, from which he had two hits in last year's final state championship victory.
"It was just amazing to be a part of the experience with these guys on and off the field. The long practices were always fun to us."
Shahan's jump on the ball for a high school outfielder was considered extremely special by his coach.
"Taylor is one of the best defensive outfielders I have ever seen," Elie said. "Any ball in the air that was in the yard, I had complete confidence he was going to catch it. He was so much fun to watch out there and really cemented his legacy there."
In a lineup full of sluggers, which had added transfer Vytas Valincius (South Carolina signee) to go with class of 2021 standouts Danny Corona (Wake Forest commitment), Cooper Kinney (South Carolina) and Nick Kurtz (Wake Forest), senior Colin Ahearn was clutch at the plate and dominated on the mound in the 2019 title run.
Ahearn, a Tennessee signee and state Mr. Baseball finalist, made noise in his only season playing with the Red Raiders, leading the team in home runs (seven) and RBIs (37). He also was 8-0 on the mound with a team-high 71 strikeouts.
"Colin has a chance to be very special and go far if he can add weight and follow UT's strength program," Elie said. "He and all of our seniors were special to our staff and their teammates. We are better off for what they have done. We are going to miss them and look forward to watching their success."
While a season that looked to be filled with glory once again was taken away due to the coronavirus pandemic, Baylor's senior class will certainly be remembered as ultimate competitors.
"Baseball isn't about you, it's about the other eight people on the field with you and the name across your chest," Shahan said. "We all went out there and played for one another and Baylor."