DeKALB – A travel ball coach before he was a high school coach, Dedric Wright is going back to his roots with the DeKalb baseball team.
The Barbs’ coach has the team playing against travel ball teams this summer, including on Friday night when the Barbs lost, 13-12, to Force Elite U Red at Ralph McKenzie Field at NIU, part of the eighth annual Judson Invitational.
“You see a lot better competition,” Wright said. “You get to better judge where players are at by going out and playing teams that were assembled.”
The loss on Friday knocked the Barbs to 0-3 in the tournament, but Wright said the level of play in this particular tournament is very high. They play at 2 p.m. Saturday at Kaneland.
Both Wright and the players saw a huge step forward in the loss Friday. After giving up nine runs between the fourth and fifth innings, the Barbs were down, 11-5, but they scored seven between the sixth and seventh innings to take the lead. John Brei got the first two outs in the seventh, but Force won with a walkoff single.
The Barbs were 10-26 last year in Wright’s first season, but did reach the Class 4A McHenry Sectional. Wright said that a couple of months ago in the spring season, the team may not have fought back like it did Friday.
“I’m just looking for different attitudes, different approaches and being in the game for seven innings,” Wright said. “During the spring season, we’d get down and stay down.
Today they scored six in one inning. ... But we were able to take the lead two innings after that. That’s the sort of baseball I want to see out of this group.”
The Barbs tied the game when Brei hit a double off the wall in left-center, scoring three. Matt Howard followed with a double to score Brei and take the lead.
“We’ve kind of had each other’s backs,” Brei said. “We’re really not getting on top of each other for bad things. We’re picking up each other. I had a double then the guy after me had another double. Things like that we really pick each other up on.”
It’s also worked from a team-building standpoint.
“We’re getting more time hanging out, getting to know people, the kids coming in,” center fielder Matt Searls said. “We’re starting to create bonds with them too. I feel that we’re coming together more as a team.”
Wright said the team concept has resonated with the Barbs.
“The dugout is positive, the players are positive and guys are having fun and look forward to coming out to the field,” Wright said. “Everyone has been working to get better this summer and hopefully it continues and carries over into next season.”
After the tournament concludes, the Barbs face Harlem on the road at 5 p.m. for a summer state regional game.