In his fifth year leading the Parkway West baseball program, coach Tony McNabb’s Longhorns had a breakthrough season.
For the first time since 2010, Parkway West posted a winning season. The Longhorns wound up 15-10.
It did not come as a surprise to McNabb.
“We have been anticipating [this] given the hard work and buy in that our players and baseball community have given these past five years,” McNabb said. “We expected to compete to be around a .500 team planning to compete for a conference title.”
McNabb had five position players and two pitchers returning this season. He liked the team he had to work with.
“My feeling was that this squad would be a tight-knit group of athletic players with the potential to hit,” McNabb said. “We went into the season concerned about our pitching as our top two returning arms on the mound, senior Zach Pierce and Junior Lopez, had arm issues coming out of summer ball. Our pitching at the start of the season was very much TBD [to be determined].”
A pulled hamstring injury to senior outfielder and No. 3 hitter, Trevor Abney, slowed a promising start for the Longhorns.
The turning point in the season came earlier this month.
“We swept Affton the week of May 1 to clinch our [Suburban Central] conference and start a 6-1 won-loss run leading up to the start of districts,” McNabb said. “During this run, a trip to Columbia to play Columbia Hickman and [Jefferson City] Helias Catholic solidified the bond of our team. Trevor Abney returned to DH [designated hitter] that weekend as we beat a perennial state powerhouse team, Columbia Hickman, 14-7 on their home turf.
“We followed that weekend with a three-game winning streak beating Hazelwood West 8-4, Fox 10-8 on a walk-off home run by Jack Swiney in the bottom of the seventh, and Lafayette 18-8 led by two home runs by Tyler Purdum.”
That winning stretch was marred only by a 6-1 loss to Helias. The win over Lafayette closed the regular season on a strong note for the Longhorns.
The club played like McNabb anticipated it was capable of doing.
“Play well was our goal each day,” McNabb said. “Our hitting was leading the way and our committee of pitchers was throwing strikes. We showed the fight to come back from being down. We had confidence in each other and believed we could compete with any team, any day.”
The Longhorns had to face Lafayette, a hot team, in the first round of the district tournament.
McNabb told his team to adhere to its “Play Well” mantra.
He said he told them to “stay together and trust the process we have trusted all year. Let the pressure be on Lafayette.
“We were the No. 5 seed of 6 [teams] in the district,” McNabb said. “Lafayette was the No. 4 seed that we had just beaten two days earlier. We knew we would see an excellent Lafayette pitcher, and they would be fired up and re-focused after losing to us a couple days earlier. I told the kids to play hard, have fun, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Parkway West dropped an 8-1 decision to the Lancers.
“We ran out of steam as we fell to a very good Lafayette team,” McNabb said. “The reality is that Lafayette is a very talented, well-coached, and determined team. We knew we would have our hands full with them. Our starting pitcher, Zach Pierce, battled on the mound for 5 2/3 innings. He left it all out there.
“We tried not to wake the sleeping giant, but Lafayette rose to the occasion to beat us. We tip our hat to them. They are a deep and established program.”
Several Longhorns experienced good years this spring.
Senior Jack Swiney had an excellent final season. He finished with a .487 batting average. He had a .910 slugging percentage with 30 runs scored. He smacked 14 doubles, two triples, and five home runs. He drove in 30 runs in 102 plate appearances.
“As expected, Jack Swiney set the bar high for us playing every inning in center field,” McNabb said.
The third baseman, Mark Mueller, hit .407, scoring 25 runs and driving in 21 runs.
“He played a tough third base for us,” McNabb said.
Trevor Abney finished with a .386 average, scoring 17 runs with 16 RBI’s. Sophomore Tyler Purdum hit .315 with three homers and 21 RBI’s. Zach Pierce and Nolan Wunderlich (2.31 ERA) each threw over 30 innings for this season.
Pierce and Wunderlich led “a committee of 12 pitchers, who gave us enough quality innings to win 15 of our 25 games,” McNabb said.
The Longhorns finished with a 7-1 conference record and won the conference championship.
“The reality is a winning record is huge,” McNabb said. “We work to emphasize playing well and that life is certainly about more than just winning baseball games. While losing teaches us lessons and works to strengthen our resolve, winning validates our relevance to the public and that we are program determined to be successful.”
While the winning season is great, McNabb said, something more important was gained by his Longhorns.
“Certainly, but even more than turning the corner of winning versus losing, we have turned to corner in believing that we can be successful if we put in the work, trust each other, and trust the process required to compete and play well every day,” McNabb said. “It is indeed a stepping stone towards higher expectations.
The reality is we exceeded most everyone’s expectations this year.
“Now we must continue to work even harder to develop our talent and keep the dream of a successful Longhorn baseball program alive. It requires much more hard work from all involved including players, coaches, parents, administration, and our community all of who believe in the relevance and dream of our program.”
McNabb loses nine seniors from the 21-man varsity roster to graduation.
But the cupboard is not bare. Parkway West will return five starting position players and two starting pitchers next year.
“I feel our future is very bright. Our starting position players included two juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman this year,” McNabb said. “Nolan Wunderlich will return next year as our No. 1 starting pitcher. This year’s starting catcher sophomore Joel Ottensmeyer is an elite defensive catching who will only get better. Sophomore first baseman/pitcher Tyler Purdum is a physical player with raw power. Freshmen Elliot Krewson is a talented infielder/pitcher who will hit for a good average and possesses a baseball IQ above his young age.
“These three guys represent a solid core to continue to build around including players from our 2018 JV team that went 12-7 and include a pitching depth of strike throwers.”
McNabb credited his seniors Trevor Abney, Keaton Adams, Jonah Hathaway, Daniel Loaney, Junior Lopez, Mark Mueller, Zach Pierce, Mark Sanders and Jack Swiney for their effort in helping the program earn a winning record.
“It has been during their four years that our program has realized a turnaround,” McNabb said. “While their skills led to the accomplishment of victories on the field, their daily commitment, grit, work ethic, and determination these past four years is what has led our team to victories and led our kids to believe that we can compete every day.
“We are forever grateful to this group of 2018 seniors for leading the return of Parkway West Longhorn baseball to relevance.”