REPUBLIC — Nixa right fielder Reese Dirnberger has proven he can separate work from play, or it actually could be play from work depending on one’s point of view.
With Dirnberger in the on-deck circle for Nixa’s Class 6 District 6 semifinal contest with Ozark on Wednesday, a nearby Eagles fan began playing rap music on his phone. Dirnberger didn’t acknowledge the music, even though it was his own.
“I heard it a little bit and I heard someone say, 'Here's a hype-up song,’” he said. “But then toned it out. I was ready to hit.”
Indeed, Dirnberger went on to single and score a run in Nixa’s 5-1 triumph against the Tigers. Later, he walked and scored another run.
A night later, Dirnberger provided a sacrifice fly that plated a run in the Eagles’ 6-2 championship game win versus Republic.
Dirnberger is delivering on the ball diamond and as “XL Reese” he’s also delivering hit after hit with his rap lyrics over the airwaves.
Since last fall, Reese has recorded 40 songs that have made the rounds among his classmates.
“It started off as a joke. But people wanted to hear more so I kept doing it,” Dirnberger said. “It’s nothing too serious. I'm just messing around and doing some word play. Out of the blue, I just decided to record something last October. People liked it, so I've kept doing it and it's starting to go somewhere.
“It's a lot of fun,” he added. “I’ll either sing or rap, just kind of what I'm feeling like doing that day. But I've been keeping baseball first and doing that on my free time and having fun with it.”
With outfielders most often having plenty of idle time in between pitches, Dirnberger at times will keep center fielder Wyatt Vincent entertained.
“Sometimes, I'll sing songs I know like Ariana Grande, just messing around while talking to Wyatt,” Dirnberger said. “Usually, I try to stay focused as much as I can. With the sun (at Republic) right behind home plate, you've got to be focused non-stop. If you take your eye off the ball, you're going to lose it in the glare of the bleachers.”
During Nixa hitting sessions indoors, the Eagles have played Dirnberger’s music.
“I feel like some of it is pretty good,” shortstop Caeden Cloud said. “It’s surprising someone in high school can do that, pretty impressive. It's pretty cool we have someone doing something special like that off the field.”
In the batter’s box, Dirnberger has been impressive, as well. So much so that he’s went from hitting near the bottom of Nixa’s lineup to the middle. Over the last several weeks, he’s been penciled in the fifth spot in coach Logan Hughes’ lineup.
“I started out the season hitting in the eight-hole, nine-hole and seven-hole. It’s a big jump,” Dirnberger said. “I've been glad to have a stuck spot in the lineup in the 5-spot. It's nothing I can't do. I stay relaxed, have a good approach and not think too much and put the bat on the ball.
"I've been hitting the ball well lately," he added. "I’ve got Tanner (Grant) right behind me. That gives me a lot of confidence.”
Nixa completed a sweep of its two games against Ozark this season, with Jackson Gamble being the winning pitcher in both contests.
Gamble went the distance in both outings. He shut out Ozark in the regular season and the lone run the Tigers scored against him the second time around came courtesy of a wild pitch.
After Ozark loaded the bases in the seventh inning, Gamble closed out the game with a pair of strikeouts.
Ozark repeatedly had a hitter reach base throughout the game, but couldn’t come through with a hit with a runner in scoring position.
“We battled. But we needed more hits and less errors, that was the difference,” coach Justin Sundlie said. “I can take as much blame for the loss as them. There are things I could have done differently in different situations possibly.”
Starting pitcher Brady Dodd and reliever Gage Depee kept Ozark within 2-0 through five frames, before Nixa broke away in the sixth.
“I can't ask more from my seniors, as far as competing,” Sundlie said. “Brady computed hard and in the box we competed. We were one hit away from tying it up. Our kids won't ever quit. They played hard. That was our goal from the start."
“We never backed down,” catcher Cooper Buvid said. “We battled all night. We were right there. We just didn't execute."
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