High school athletes are like foot soldiers.
They register and enlist to join a team.
They are taught strategies and the teamwork needed to be successful in individual and group battles.
And just like soldiers, high school athletes need a commanding officer.
In the military, it’s a general. In sports, like softball and baseball, it’s a coach — sometimes called a field general.
These commanders aren’t always well liked. Their motives are often questioned and, at times, feared. It’s human nature for foot soldiers and prep athletes to buck authority, even more so in this day and age.
But generally, these generals know their personnel and their strengths. They know what needs to be done to be successful.
Local high school baseball and softball coaches have been doing their best to help their teams win the war — a state championship — over the past few weeks, and doing it in a manner that would have made another former general proud.
“Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.” — General George S. Patton.
South Hagerstown coach Zack Swisher was in a quandary.
The Rebels had been on the short end of many battles and had a 10-game losing streak heading into the Class 3A West playoffs.
On May 10, South opened the postseason against Watkins Mill, jumping out to a 12-0 lead through three innings when heavy rain suspended the game. Rain and wet grounds pushed the suspension through the weekend.
Swisher had to formulate a plan of action. He had Airin Martin, his ace pitcher, on the mound and pitching a perfect game at the time.
The choice was whether to allow Martin, who has had bad luck all season, complete the game on May 13 for personal glory or replace him so he could be used in the next game.
He elected to replace Martin in what became a 16-0 win in 4 1/2 innings.
“I wanted him to pitch and complete the game,” Swisher said. “He’s had a lot of hard luck. I considered it, but it wasn’t the right move for the team.”
“I would rather have a good plan today than a perfect plan two weeks from now.” — Patton
Later that day, the North Hagerstown softball team hosted Northwood in a Class 3A West quarterfinal game and was locked in a 3-3 tie entering the bottom of the third.