Throughout the programâ€™s history, the Bulldogs of Fairdale have been consistently unable to instill any fear into the hearts of their opponents. With an impotent bark, these Bulldogs, in many ways, have been mediocre and a non-threat in the sixth region.
But this season, Coach Adam Crawford aimed to change things. In fact, he came into his second year as head coach expecting his team â€“ a team comprised of eight seniors â€“ to make a big push with all the experience they had. Crawford saw their progression year in and year out as something that would culminate into a historic senior year.
â€œTheyâ€™re seniors who have played together for a long time,â€ he says. â€œIf I can get them to play the type of game I want them to play, I feel like it will push them past some of those boundaries that they couldnâ€™t get past before.â€
Overcoming boundaries is what this team has done thus far. For the past three seasons, the team has gone a combined 50-49. In postseason play, theyâ€™ve failed to get past the first round of the sixth region tournament.
Crawford said the team â€œunderachievedâ€ last year. But now, as his seniors have been playing together since fifth grade both in school and in summer ball, Crawford knew they wanted to leave a legacy behind in their farewell season.
â€œI wanted them to play loose, free and enjoy the game theyâ€™re playing.â€ Crawford adds. â€œI wanted to bring that to the table so they wouldnâ€™t put so much pressure on themselves, and I wanted them to have fun while they are playing. I think that it has shown by me letting them have some freedom and some individuality within the team concept. It has let them play the game at a high level because they are not under so much pressure â€“ not being scared to fail â€“ and it has shown in our record.â€
In 2016, the Bulldogs have gone 17-6 so far and have made history along the way. The by-product of their success has been wins over both Collins and Bullitt East for the first time in the schoolâ€™s history.
â€œWeâ€™ve beaten teams that we havenâ€™t in the past, and we have grown and learned from our mistakes. I felt like if we could do those things, we would be a really strong group,â€ Crawford adds.
But Fairdale isnâ€™t just content in breaking the stigma by defeating teams for the first time in the regular season. No, these Bulldogs are hungry foar more. They are focused on the goals of making more history: winning a district tournament and winning a regional championship, both of which are honors the program has never achieved before.
Along with strengthening weaknesses within the team, Nolan Cook, senior pitcher and outfielder, says cooperation will be essential for them to continue to rewrite the record books: â€œWe donâ€™t really have a leader to the seniors or a captain per se, but we all tend to strive together.â€
Named after Major League Baseball legend Nolan Ryan by his dad, Cook admires Ryan as a pitcher when he stands on the mound. â€œHis mindset is everything,â€ he says. â€œIt helps me get through everything â€“ just the way he plays â€“ I try to mimic him and his hard work.â€
As a result, Cook has gone 4-0 in his first four games with a 1.12 ERA and 12 strikeouts, helping his team allow the second fewest runs in the region at 3.3 per game.
Among the other gifted seniors is Max Cole. â€œMr. Versatilityâ€ is what you can call him. The senior has played multiple positions: pitcher, second and third base, outfield and now catcher. Since he has played multiple positions, you can arguably see Cole any and everywhere. Being the center of attention isnâ€™t his mantra; however, sacrificing for the betterment of the team is.
â€œI try to go wherever the coaches need me to go,â€ he says. â€œI played in the outfield freshman year. I played third base sophomore year, and now I am catching. It is a big role to have, and colleges look for that too â€“ a guy who can play multiple positions and be a utility player. I just always push for us to do the best we can.â€
According to Crawford, Fairdale has taken baby steps toward reaching the state tournament for the first time in history, and he says the team is â€œdefinitely capable of doing it.â€ In the past few seasons, it would have been a goal considered to be far-fetched, but now, the Bulldogs are a lot closer. They are in position to determine their own destiny. VT