Billy Ross and his family experienced a Saturday afternoon they will never forget at William Chrisman High School, on a day marked by a steady drizzle, overhanging clouds and enough smiles to last a lifetime.
The William Chrisman leadoff hitter reached base four times, scored three runs and hit a double and single in a wild, come-from-behind 13-11 victory over Van Horn in the first game of a doubleheader.
The Independence School District is allowing its three schools – Chrisman, Truman and Van Horn – to participate in a series of sporting events this week, and the Bears kicked things off in an offensive explosion.
In the second game of the Saturday doubleheader, Ross hit a double and home run in a 6-5 loss to Truman.
Before the doubleheader began, his family was honored as his parents, Lori and Francis, donated the funds to put a turf infield at the Chrisman baseball stadium.
"I don’t think I’m ever going to quit smiling," said Ross, who finished the day with four hits, five runs scored and two RBIs. "I never thought this day would happen – it’s like a dream.
"I was sitting in our dugout just thinking, ‘Is this a dream or is this real?’ And I was able to have some success. I wish we would have won that second game, but just playing is so special that the loss doesn’t hurt as much as most losses.
"I know I can say this for all my teammates, we just want to thank the Independence School District for making this happen."
Independence School District Superintendent Dale Herl was sitting on the front row in a lawn chair, taking in all the action.
"I woke up so excited this morning," Herl said. "I couldn’t wait to get over here to Chrisman. Is there anything better than a doubleheader?
"And later this week we’re going to have tennis, golf and track and field and another doubleheader over at Truman. These students deserve this. And we all needed this.
"To be able to watch sports allows us to take our minds off all the other things going on in the world right now."
Van Horn leadoff hitter Cooper Sumpter also reached base four times, scored three runs and hit a double and single. He played a big role in Van Horn taking an early 9-3 lead.
But the Chrisman bats woke up in an eight-run fourth inning. Three runs crossed the plate on two bases-loaded walks and a hit batter in the inning, and Ralph Covington delivered a key two-run single.
Chrisman freshman first baseman Trey Kates made three outstanding defensive plays in the top of seventh inning to seal the win as he made two catches in foul territory, including one where he reached over the fence to snag a ball, and then made a short-hop grab at first to end the game.
The lone contest Van Horn seniors Joe "J.J." Johnson and Matt Davis will play this summer didn’t end with a victory, but they still walked off the field smiling.
Because the Falcons do not have enough pitching, their lone game this week was the loss to Chrisman.
"This is so meaningful," said Johnson, who along with his teammate was honored after the game with a commemorative bat. "I mean it, this means the world to me. To be able to put on a Van Horn uniform and play with Matt and my other teammates one more time is just the best feeling."
Johnson had a double and single, scored a run and pitched three-plus innings to start the game.
Davis added two singles, scored two runs and had three RBIs.
"I’m a third generation baseball player at Van Horn – my brother Kyle played and my sister Kelsey was a second baseman for the Falcons, and a lot better athlete than I am – so this means everything to me and my family," Davis said.
"It’s kind of hard to find the right words, but I want to thank the school district for allowing us to play one more game."
Van Horn coach Jay Kolster was happy to see his seniors – and himself – in uniform again.
"I’m always happy when I’m in a baseball uniform," Kolster said. "I’m addicted to baseball, and to have the chance to play one game with these guys is so important to me and, by the look of all the fans here, important to everyone who wants to see some baseball.
"We were aggressive at the plate and we gave Chrisman all we could. I’m proud of these guys, so proud!"