Senior Connor Enochs: Constant Presence in East’s Baseball Success
Two years ago when the East High Scarlets advanced to the state tournament there was a feeling of having arrived ahead of schedule. The team was loaded with talented juniors, and the disappointment of losing in the state semifinals was tempered by the tantalizing fact that all of the key pieces would return in 2014. That would be their year. Sure enough, East started last season as the state’s top-ranked team. But a funny thing happened on the way back to Principal Park in downtown Des Moines, home of the state tournament. The Scarlets were upset by Hoover in sub-state action. Instead of surpassing the previous season’s achievements, last year ended even more disappointingly and prematurely.
When the 2015 season began East was unranked and remained so throughout the summer, compiling an up and down record of 20-20 entering postseason play. The road back to state would have to run through #2 ranked Johnston, the team that eliminated East at state in 2013. Lo and behold, the Scarlets upset the Dragons 4-1 in the sub state finals last week to earn the right to face Iowa City West Wednesday night at 7:30 in the quarterfinals.
Not surprisingly their gritty shortstop, senior Connor Enochs, was right in the middle of the payback win.
Two years ago he was a sophomore already starting at a key position for a heralded team. In fact, Enochs has been playing varsity baseball since the summer following his 8th grade year, before he even had a hallway locker to call his own at East. Now he’s the old pro on the roster and his rankings in the program’s record books attest to that status. The names in the school’s baseball pantheon are inscribed on the back of the home team dugout at East. CONNOR ENOCHS is freshly painted in stolen bases and hits, the two categories he’s climbed to the top of this year. Entering his final season he already held the top spot in assists thanks to all the groundballs he’s gobbled during his career. He’s also closing in on #1 in runs scored and at-bats.
Monday morning before a practice timed to beat the afternoon heat we caught up with Enochs in the trainer’s room beneath the stands of Williams Stadium where he was getting treatment on a minor injury he sustained when he fouled a ball off his calf. Questions about the upset of Johnston were answered by redirecting the spotlight at teammates like Chino Alcala, the slugging first baseman whose two-run homer provided a lead that was never relinquished, and southpaw starter Jeremy Bentley, the winning pitcher. Enochs’ undersized ego took about as much massage as his leg was getting before he admitted, yes it was practically a confession, that he got a double and scored a run in the game, not to mention that he was the one Coach Brian Luft called on to relieve Bentley and put out the fire the Dragons were trying to breathe into a last gasp rally in the bottom of the 7th. With men on 2nd and 3nd and only one out, Enochs got the last two outs, one on a popup to Alcala; the other was a called third strike curveball to end the game.
It’s typical of the team leader to praise his teammates, according to his coach.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever coached,” said Luft when told of Enochs’ modesty in recounting the big win. “But he’s so humble and quiet, too.”
The kind of player that coaches love to pencil into their lineups the way Luft has been doing with Enochs for five seasons now. He’ll be sorely missed next year when he’s playing college baseball at North Iowa Community College.
In 2013 the Scarlet team theme was “All Gas, No Brakes.” Last year the back of the boosters’ t-shirts read “Unfinished Business.” What’s been the 2015 mantra?
“Coach is a big (Chicago) Cub fan,” Enochs disclosed, “so the slogan this year is ‘Let’s Play Two’ in memory of Ernie Banks (aka, Mr. Cub) who passed away last winter. That’s what he always used to say because he loved playing the game so much.”
Matter of fact, Coach Luft had a trip to Wrigley Field in Chicago tentatively scheduled for this week. Since he’ll be busy at the state tournament instead his buddies will have to go without him. Maybe Enochs, who can certainly relate to Banks’ love for ballplaying, and his teammates can play three this week and win them all. Then Mr. Scarlet will leave with the one thing written next to his name that he wants most: state champ.