'Make every moment count.' Versailles baseball embracing opportunity to play

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Versailles baseball coach Jason Ollison.

The “Coming Back From COVID-19” series will focus on spring sports programs at Camdenton, Osage, Eldon, Versailles, Macks Creek and Climax Springs who saw their seasons stripped away due to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. The series will highlight how these programs handled those tough times and their return to action.

It was just a year ago when Versailles senior Andrew Thompson and his teammates stepped onto brand new turf in a brand new venue, enjoying the first practices on the field they would be calling home as they prepared for the 2020 season. 

It was a season that never got to take place as the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to mid-Missouri and across the globe, bringing everything to a halt. A junior at the time, Thompson saw firsthand how the pandemic denied his senior teammates the opportunity to enjoy high school baseball one last time. It is why he is grateful to be back in his senior season, playing a game he loves in one final journey with the Tigers. 

“It means a lot to be able to return this season. This being my last season and also the first year to play on the new field, I was really hoping we would have it,” Thompson said. “My approach to this year is really to make every moment count. There isn’t going to be any wasted time for me this season.” 

If there was any silver lining or anything valuable the pandemic provided, it was precisely that lesson- that nothing is guaranteed. 

“We tried to focus on the things we could control. We were able to do a few things the summer, which helped, but I think more than anything it has taught us that we cannot take a season for granted,” Versailles coach Jason Ollison said. “High school kids tend to feel they can just, ‘Wait until my senior year,’ and if last season taught us anything, it taught us that no season is guaranteed and even if you do things the right way, the game can be taken away.

“It is unfortunate for last year’s seniors, but I think it has helped mature our younger guys and made them focus a little more.” 

Versailles lost a decent crop of talent in Kaden McGinnis, Brayden Morrison, Ryan Chamberlain, Jordan King and Kyjuan Buckingham to graduation. The last time the Tigers were on the field in 2019, they finished 6-17 and the sophomores from that campaign will now have to lead the way as seniors. 

“More than anything we are trying to get guys caught up. We have a lot of guys that needed to, ‘get their feet wet,’ at the varsity level,” Ollison said of the program. “Missing out on that, we have a lot of mental things we will have to work through. Baseball can be a very mentally difficult game. We are trying to get our guys to work through that part of it and just focus on the process.” 

The good news for the Tigers is that they have numbers that should help the team have a balanced approach. 

“We have 12 to 14 guys that are going to be able to contribute, which has led to some good competition in practice. We are trying to focus on the fundamentals and mental approach to the game and hopefully that will make us a gritty them that competes every day,” Ollison said. 

“Pitchers throwing strikes, hitters putting the ball in play and fielders making the routine play. If we can continue to improve on those three things, the games will take care of themselves.”

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132