BELLVILLE — Coming off a second straight state semifinal appearance, Clear Fork head baseball coach Rusty Staab will step away from the program, with the intention of handing over the reins to his son Joe.
The outgoing record for Staab is 281-163.
“I knew this was going to be my last year when (Joe) got hired to teach eighth-grade science,” he said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to coach with him one year and give some experience.
“I told him, you’re back home. This is where you grew up and played high school baseball.”
Joe Staab spent two seasons as head baseball coach at Wynford High School, where he compiled a record of 31-20 overall and 21-13 in the Northern 10 conference. He led the Royals to a district runner up finish in 2016.
“Joe reminds me of me 25 years ago, plus he’s got so many new ideas,” Rusty Staab said. “That came from (Heidelberg head baseball) Coach Matt Palm. He couldn’t have gone to a better school, because Palm is one of the best coaches I’ve ever seen at the college level.”
Before looking too far ahead, Rusty Staab compared the tournament runs of 2016 vs. 2017.
“Last year we were all jelling and had timely hits,” he said. “It was as if the other teams made mistakes and we got in. This year it was the experience and chemistry the kids bought into it … the hard work and commitment of trying to get back.”
This year there a lot of injury obstacles to overcome, which were quickly forgotten once the tournament started.
“After all of the injuries it was the last thing on our minds. But when we got everybody back, we just terrorized the district and regional.”
In their five wins in district and regional play, Clear Fork outscored opponents 34-3. Three of the wins were shutouts.
“We were the ones not making mistakes,” Rusty Staab said. “Awesome defense, great pitching and we just hit the crap out of the ball. We couldn’t have been any hotter going into that game (state semifinal). But we ran into a buzz saw. That was the bottom line.
That buzz saw was Warren Champion junior Drake Batcho. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefthander allowed four hits and struck out nine Colts on his way to a complete game victory in Saturday’s 2-1 semifinal victory.
“It seems like we didn’t catch a break. That kid was a stud,” the coach said. “The bottom line is that we had some opportunities. We had guys on third with two outs. All through the district and regional we’ve been getting that two-out hit. This time we didn’t.”
Heading into the seventh inning Saturday, Clear Fork and Champion were tied 1-1.
Clear Fork starter Mitch Dulin allowed a lead-off single before striking out the next man up. With one out, Champion’s Kyle Forrest took what looked like strike three, only to be awarded the base on ball four.
That walk set the stage for Michael Turner’s single to left and a fielding error, which allowed the winning run to score.
“I think the play of the game was in the seventh … the full count pitch that was called ball four. That was strike three and that’s the second out. I think the ump wanted to ring him up and he just missed it. That completely killed us,” Staab said.
The out-going coach will take some time off and weigh his future options.
“I want to back off for a year and see if I miss it,” he said.
But Staab says he will still be involved in baseball.
“I have a hitting facility called ‘Hitsville,’ and I started a baseball program. Hitsville has teams in U10, U13 and U14. This was the first year and it was all Clear Fork kids.”
If high school baseball is indeed a thing of the past, Staab has no regrets.
“I don’t think I would change a thing,” he said. “You coach to win, not to make everybody happy. You’re never going to make everybody happy.”