A hard-luck catcher soldiers on despite loss of Redhawks baseball
Ben Matthews ~ Southeast Missourian
Wade Stauss saw the gathering storm coming for his team.
The College World Series was cancelled.
March Madness was called off.
Still, when the waves finally hit in the middle of this month, washing out the rest of Southeast Missouri State’s baseball season, Stauss was put back on his heels.
“At first, I was shocked,” said Stauss, the Redhawks’ starting catcher.
“My first thought was for the seniors,” said the redshirt sophomore.
“I may never play another game with those guys,” he added.
Southeast’s season was immediately suspended by order of the Ohio Valley Conference earlier this month, part of a decision that ended all 2020 spring sports in the league due to the coronavirus.
Stauss’ coach, Andy Sawyers, broke the news in the locker room on Thursday, March 12, just before SEMO’s scheduled Spring Break.
“(Seniors) like (Justin) Dirden and Danny (Wright) have helped me with my baseball,” Stauss said, “and with my faith.”
Southeast (9-8, 2-1, OVC) ended a truncated season with two consecutive losses which followed a seven-game win streak.
One of the nation’s best
The 6-foot-4 Dirden was off to a magnificent start in what may be the outfielder’s final year of eligibility.
D1 Baseball Thursday released its 2020 Top 50 senior hitters in the nation and ranked Dirden second.
The redshirt senior was hitting .414 with nine home runs, 26 runs batted in and 29 hits when play was halted.
The O’Fallon, Missouri native led the Redhawks in all those offensive categories.
Dirden also had stolen nine bases in as many attempts.
But it’s all over now.
Circumstances beyond your control
Stauss, in view of the spread of COVID-19 into Cape Girardeau County, called the decision to suspend spring sports “right” and “understandable.”
Logically, it was the correct call but emotionally, Stauss said he was bewildered.
“It’s just a state of disbelief,” said Southeast’s backstop, who leads the Redhawks in strikeouts and being hit by pitches.
“We were just finding our stride and now it’s gone,” Stauss added.
Not only are the games suspended but so are any team-organized workouts.
Stauss is getting some work in on his own, trying to sharpen his skills while he processes the heartbreak of a campaign abruptly ended.
“I’ve been going to the indoor facility (at Capaha Park),” Stauss said.
“They moved some weights in there and we also can hit and throw,” he added.
Stauss said he’s been putting in as many as three hours a day.
“Most D1 athletes,” Stauss said, “don’t need to be told to work out.”
Staying on the field
Stauss, a 2017 graduate of Lafayette High in suburban St. Louis county, has had a career saddled by repeated bouts of illness.
As a prep school freshman, he was sidelined by the flu.
In 10th grade, he had his appendix removed.
As a junior, mononucleosis.
Only his 12th grade season was healthy.
Once the 6-foot-2 Stauss got to Southeast, the injury bug bit.
Last season, a concussion knocked Stauss off the field on March 10, 2019 during a Sunday doubleheader at home against UT-Martin.
“A left-handed hitter fouled a ball hard off my (catcher’s) mask,” Stauss said. “It really rattled me up.”
Stauss said he finished the inning but as he acknowledged later to the team trainer, “that one got me good.”
It was a concussion, Stauss’ second of the season.
Thinking he’d be out a week, Stauss was sidelined for the remainder of the Redhawks’ ’19 schedule.
“People told me I looked fine,” Stauss said, “but my head was pounding whenever I tried to do any physical activity.”
Stauss was able to obtain a medical redshirt after the injury.
The 20-year old is determined to get in his full eligibility.
His decision to go into a two-year graduate program at Southeast, Stauss admits, is driven by a desire to keep playing collegiate baseball.
In the meantime, the team is practicing the recommended social distancing and keeping in touch with one another via group text.
“Coach (Sawyers) has handled this tough situation extraordinarily well,” Stauss said.