Most of Skyline’s quartet of seniors were ready to make their first major impacts on the Hawks’ baseball program this spring. One senior, pitcher/shortstop Sam Harris, had already left a major mark before entering what was supposed to be his final high school season in 2020, a campaign brought to a halt by COVID-19.
First-year coach Tyler Settle, a Skyline grad who served as an assistant coach at his alma mater for the previous two seasons, said recently that Harris’ most prominent trait was his work ethic. As a four-year member of the varsity squad, Harris had plenty of time to put that on display for his teammates.
“I think he was kind of an example for those other young guys throughout the years because every new group that has came up, he kind of already had some respect (by) making varsity as a freshman and having that type of impact around you,” Settle said, adding that Harris was a natural choice to be a team captain this season.
“I think it was a pretty obvious selection for the other guys. There were no objections to it. He’s just a natural leader on the field. I’ve tried to work on his vocal ability because he’s not necessarily the most vocal leader in the world, but he leads by example. He busts his tail. … He’s had a big impact.”
Asked about certain moments that highlighted Harris’ career, Settle mentioned a pitching performance Harris had during his sophomore year against a good Central team, an outing that Settle said was a “breakthrough” moment for Harris and made Skyline’s coaching staff turn its attention toward grooming him to one day be the Hawks’ ace.
Settle also recalled how Harris, starting last fall, started truly gaining confidence in his playing ability to the point where he realized that a college baseball career at the Division III level was in play if he wanted to go that route.
A memory that sticks out most of all for Settle, though, was when Harris grabbed hold of a pull-up bar and showed just how hard he’d been working in the weight room in the offseason.
“Pull-ups were just his thing and he repped out like 15, 20 pull-ups with no problem, which is unheard of for somebody that age, especially his size,” Settle said. “He’s like 6-1 and has a little bulk to him. That really stood out. That’s when I knew that he’s obviously been working hard and trying to improve. He cares and he wants to be the best he can be.”
Harris’ junior season in 2019 didn’t go the way he or the Hawks wanted it to go on the mound, but he was one of only two players to bat over .300 for a Skyline team that won only four games last year, and he led the squad with 10 RBIs.
For Harris, a kid who had carved out an everyday role for Skyline, one of his fondest memories of his time with the Hawks came during his freshman season in 2017, in a game in which he didn’t even play.
“We played Sherando and it was a really close game, and we had a rain delay in between it, and we ended up winning that game 4-3. I didn’t play in that game at all but I was just happy to be on the team and I just remember how much fun it was,” Harris said.
While Harris was set to begin 2020 as a true varsity veteran, the rest of his senior teammates – Nolan Golden, Nick Heberle and David Shenk – were eager to get their first shots in major roles for the varsity team. Settle said Golden and Heberle were going to be two leaders in the outfield this season – Golden was also the Hawks’ best relief pitcher, Settle said – and Shenk was slotted in as the No. 2 pitcher behind Harris and was competing for a starting spot at third base as well.
“We were gonna need all three of them to make a big impact,” Settle said. “Even though they weren’t one of our three prolific players the year before or the year before that, this was their year.”
Golden said he was ready to help push the Hawks in a winning direction.
“I just wanted to do something this year since I was a senior,” he said. “I was really hoping we could just do something. But mainly I just was wanting to kind of help keep the team straight and not arguing, so we could win some games because that’s been our trouble.”
Golden, who noted that all of Skyline’s coaches were “always good to me” and that he learned the value of respect during his time in the program, said his favorite high school baseball memory was of a game in which he went 4-for-4 at the plate.
Shenk said his proudest moment as a Hawk came during his final year of junior-varsity ball as a sophomore in 2018, during which he threw a complete-game shutout against Handley.
“Honestly, we didn’t believe it was happening,” Shenk recalled, “and the tension was getting real toward the bottom of the seventh inning and the coach was like ‘Are you still ready to go?’ I was like ‘Yeah, I’m gonna get it done for you.’ By God, I went in there and got it done and everyone was just ecstatic.”
Shenk said Skyline’s small core of seniors was “inseparable” on the diamond.
“In Little League, we went to states and stuff,” Harris said, “and we’d go to the hotel and stay, all there together and play through. It’s just crazy to look back on that and then like it’s all over now. We spent a lot of time together in the summers.”
Shenk added that his time spent with Skyline’s baseball program was “an experience I will never forget.”
“Everyone on the team was definitely my brothers,” he said.