Rylan Evans anticipates he and his Nixa teammates will be more motivated than ever in response to the Eagles’ Class 6 District 6 final loss to Kickapoo last week.
“There’s not going to be a day I’m sitting on the couch,” said Evans, a top contender to be Nixa’s ace next year. “My window is closing. I have no desire to sit down at all. I don’t think there’s going to be a single kid sitting on their butt this summer. I’m not going to let them because I have too much faith in us.
“This loss hurts and is always going to hurt,” he added. “It hurts losing these seniors. But we’re going to be ready for next year. Next year is going to be our year. It’s going to be our year to do it.”
Evans provided himself a strong boost of momentum and confidence heading into the summer. He hurled 4.2 innings of one-run relief against Kickapoo.
“He’s got some really good stuff and learned a lot about himself,” coach Logan Hughes said.
In the regular season, Evans compiled a 4-2 W-L record and 1.09 ERA, to go along with 19 strikeouts and 14 walks over 19.1 innings.
He knows he’s not the overpowering type, but would like to add a bit more bite to his fastball.
“I’ll stay sharp during fall ball and during the winter we have a great facility and a bunch of resources,” Evans said. “I’d love to pick up velocity. But I know you don’t have to throw 90 to get strikeouts. I’m throwing 80-83 mph. I would love to come into the season at 85-87, that’s my goal for next year.”
Evans will be among a handful of key contributors from this season’s 32-4 squad who will return. Also due back are third baseman Tanner Grant, catcher Jack Edwards, second baseman Rylan Michel, center fielder Wyatt Vincent and left fielder Caeden Cloud.
Grant, Edwards, Michel and Vincent all hit well over .300 this year. Upon the end of the regular season, Grant was batting .398, Edwards .358, Vincent .349 and Michel .343.
“We’ve got a lot of great guys coming back who are going to be hungry,” Hughes said. “We have to use this feeling (following the loss to Kickapoo) to fuel us in the future. It hurts. Hopefully, guys will remember this feeling when it’s time to work again.”
Nixa’s junior-varsity was 13-6 this year and its freshman team was undefeated.
“They’re great. I can’t wait to mentor them,” Evans said. “I’m going to try to be there for them as much as I can because we’re going to need some dogs if we want to win State.”
“The senior class this year has set a standard that we’re going to build off of,” Hughes said. “I’m proud of the senior group for creating a culture that I think is going to last many years. We’re happy about the future.”