2019 NewsTribune Baseball Coach of the Year

Hall coach Tom Keegan (center) talks to members of his team during a postseason game. Keegan is the NewsTribune Coach of the Year for the third straight season after leading his team to a 24-7 record and post season success.

The last three baseball seasons have had Hall in the headlines, at the top of most of the NewsTribune leaderboard categories and deep in the postseason.

Sure, a lot of the success is attributed to the talent as some have made noise in the college ranks after Hall and players from this year’s team are also going to play at the next level.

However, Hall coach Tom Keegan and his staff of Matt McDonald and Kevin Sangston deserve credit, too.

Senior Chance Resetich remembers being on varsity as a freshman. Keegan was the one that helped him ease into being one of the guys.

“The way he connects with you and builds a relationship definitely helps, especially from an early age,” Resetich said. “I was super scared and he helped me out. I didn’t really hang out with the older kids my freshman year. That was my first time being with the juniors and the seniors and I was super scared. He just made it a lot easier going into the first few weeks of practice.”

Fast forward three years and Resetich and the three other seniors — Jimmy DeAngelo, James Mautino and Conner Ripka — helped lead Hall to its third straight sectional final.

The Red Devils finished the season 24-7 and won the Three Rivers Conference East Division title with an 11-1 mark.

For Hall’s accomplishments, Keegan is the 2019 NewsTribune Baseball Coach of the Year. This is the third straight coach of the year honor for Keegan.

“It has just been a cumulative effort from everyone involved,” said Keegan, who thought Marquette’s Todd Hopkins had a fantastic season as the Crusaders won the Class 1A state championship. “I have some great guys to coach with in Matt (McDonald) and Chief (Kevin Sangston) to some players that have bought into the things that we’re selling.

“A couple of years ago we were happy as heck to win a regional. Hopefully, now we’re getting to the point where it is expected and we want to go as far as we can in the postseason. If that’s our mindset, then we must be doing something right and that’s what we want to continue.”

Last year, the Red Devils won the Class 2A state championship and were on top of the world. Trying to keep high school boys level headed and playing at a top level can be hard.

Instead of barking at his players to do it again, he just wanted his Red Devils to play the best baseball they could.

“I think the biggest thing was there wasn’t a whole lot of talk about what was done the year before them,” Keegan said. “It was just a matter of trying to continue some of the mannerisms or the mindset that was established by those guys that moved on.

“Those are the things that we talked the most about because those are things we can control. Every team that plays wants to win the last game of the season, but you can’t control that. You have to focus on what you can control. That’s what we were telling them.”

Throughout the year, there were adjustments in the batting order and occasional movement in the field.

The change of sophomore Trez Rybarczyk moving from second base, where he was last year, to catcher happened in the offseason and only differed when Rybarczyk took the mound.

“I have caught my whole life and last year Brant (Vanaman) was our catcher, so I mostly played infield and pitched,” Rybarczyk said. “I believe moving to catcher helped my team because my ability to frame, throw runners out and it instilled confidence in our pitchers.

“One way coach helps us is with his emphasis on the mobility program through the yoga we do. It helps each player across the board regardless of skill level.”

Keegan learned a long time ago a baseball season isn’t a sprint.

Through the March to May marathon, he worked out the kinks and put players in places to succeed, including juniors who were on the team as sophomores but didn’t see the field much.

“Plugging in players to the spots left open did happen but it didn’t happen overnight,” Keegan said. “It took some trial and error. It took a little bit of time. At some point and time we had contribution from a lot of kids. It was a kid like (Austin) DeBates who swung it well and a kid like Matt Hultz who swung it well.

“We had a couple of kids who as sophomores were kind of question marks coming in. Payton Plym swung it extremely well. (Alec) Bulak was incredible on the mound. I was very impressed with him.”

The end of the season didn’t end the way the Red Devils wanted it to as they fell in the Class 2A Byron Sectional final to Alleman, 8-7.

However, Hall was still one of the last 16 teams in the postseason bracket even though it saw every team’s A game.

“(Keegan) always told us that we were going to have a target on our back throughout the course of the season. And, we did, for sure,” Resetich said. “We saw everyone’s No. 1 pitcher. We saw everyone’s best when they played us.

“He told us we had to play our best baseball to be able to compete with everyone else.”

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.

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