Just My Opinion by Bill Curl 5-18-17
Here’s a tip of the faded JC cap to Jeff Curtis.
His chest must be bursting with pride after guiding his young team to the Select Division I Championship.
There is also a large measure of pride coming from his father and boss, J. T. Curtis, and his older brother and predecessor, Johnny Curtis.
Building a team like that starts with teaching fundamentals. Then you take talented young men and you develop the talent of every player to be the best they can be Then you put them in a position to be successful.
There is one more element; one that has been the firebrand of Curtis athletes through the years: confidence. This team took the field with confidence every outing; expecting to win each game, expecting to win the Catholic League, expecting to go all the way to the State Championship.
Call it a dream. If so, the players on this 2017 team woke up Sunday morning knowing they could make a dream come true. They motivated each other with their work ethic in running, lifting weights, talking extra swings in the batting cage, throwing extra pitches after practice, etc. Add mental preparation to all of that. It didn’t come easy.
Driven by a head coach? Certainly. If those young people want to live by example, they need to look no further than their head coach, whose lifestyle is well worth being emulated. The lessons are way beyond the baseball field, but the accomplishments are most clearly reflected by their phenomenal accomplishments as a team.
- They won the championship in the state’s largest classification for the first time in the great history of John Curtis athletics.
- They successfully defended their Catholic League title after losing several key players who graduated.
- This success came with just one senior on the team, Austin Haensel.
- Using the pre-district games for experimentation, Jeff used 13 different pitchers and 20 different hitters before settling on his rotation and lineup
- They extended the Curtis surprising domination of the district, with a winning record against every Catholic League foe in the first two years in the league.
- They rolled through the early 2017 district games, then clinched outright claim to the championship with a 7-6 win over Rummel.
- They won 18 of their last 20 games; 10 of those wins came by 5 or more runs.
- They earned the #1 seed in the tournament, and appropriately wore the mantle, dominating their playoff opponents, outscoring them, 31-4.
- They beat two of Curtis’s biggest rivals in the playoffs, decisively sweeping Evangel in the quarterfinals and soundly defeating Rummel in the semifinals.
- They finished it off with a no-hit performance by Ian Landreneau under the spotlight of the championship game to add glitter to the crown.
That extended Jeff’s record to 50-14 in his first two years of coaching. He is quick to give credit to his assistants, and rightfully so. Steve Curtis, Kyle Pierce and Matt Gambill certainly had a hand in this team’s success.
Their meetings to prepare for next season will have special feeling. You can be sure of one thing: they will be prepared.