“We always know that if we do what we’re supposed to do we have a chance to win. After we’re done the legacy we leave behind can affect others for a long time so we want to leave a legacy of success.”
There’s no doubt what’s on the mind of senior Clay Pilgrim.
Pilgrim joins a host of seniors that want to leave their mark on the East Lawrence baseball program.
In some ways they already have, but this week they will get the opportunity to leave no doubt.
East Lawrence is in the playoffs and will travel this Friday to take on Westminster Christian.
It’s the program’s first playoff appearance since 2016 and also their first under second year head coach, and East Lawrence alum, Zach Standridge.
“Our freshmen year we went to the playoffs but all I did was run bases,” Pilgrim said. “It feels really good, especially after getting that win on Thursday.”
Pilgrim has been the driving force for the Eagles all season, serving as the team’s best hitter as well as their best pitcher.
Because of this, he has been put in a lot of high pressure situations, both at the plate and on the mound, and has excelled in those spots.
“Used to that might would put extra pressure on me,” Pilgrim said. “But it seems like it doesn’t affect me like it used to.”
There was no more high pressure situation than this past Thursday when Pilgrim was put on the mound for game three against Colbert Heights in a winner take all game.
How did he respond?
By pitching a complete game, including an extra inninng, striking out sixteen and earning his team the win and a playoff berth.
“I always thought being the ace would bring a lot of pressure,” he said. “I’ve been able to handle it and having a good team behind plays a big part in that. Knowing they have my back go a long way in helping my confidence.”
Pilgrim will bookend his career at East Lawrence with playoff appearances. He states that there are some simililarities between the two.
“I just think the biggest thing is everybody’s mentality,” he said. “That year everybody was driven to win. Since then it fell off and the work when the coaches weren’t watching fell off. That’s the player’s fault and this year we’ve been fortunate to have a group of seniors that want to win.”
Those seniors have also helped East Lawrence evolve just in the past year from a team that only won eight game to a team that’s getting close to 20.
“It’s a lot of maturity. Last year we had a lot of errors and we would let that affect and allow the wheels to fall off,” Pilgrim stated. “This year we’ve done a better job of keeping calm and controlling what we can control.”
East Lawrence will travel to Westminster Friday night for the first round of the playoffs. In any sport, but especially baseball, once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.
Prior to his arrival at East Lawrence, Standridge took probably a less talented team at Elkmont to the quarterfinals.
Pilgrim hopes they can find some of that magic themselves.
“W’ve played Westminster before in other sports,” he said. “But baseball is a totally different sport. You can be overmatched in football and basketball, but in baseball if you do what you’re supposed to you can beat anybody.”
The youngest of three siblings that have all played at East Lawrence, Pilgrim has been dreaming of a moment like this since he was a kid.
“I’ve been coming to the games since Shelby and Garrett were in high school so I’ve been around it a long time,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid, playing by myself in the yard, I would dream about taking the winning shot or hitting a homerun. It’s always been a dream of mine to lead East Lawrence in the playoffs and it’s finally come true.”
One upping his siblings would just be an added bonus.
“It comes with a lot of pressure being the youngest. It comes with a lot of expectations,” Pilgrim said as he began to smile. “I hope once I finish I can say I did live up to them and even passed them. Being brothers and sisters I’d always like to be better than they were.”
Regardless of the outcome on Friday, Pilgrim hopes his legacy won’t be defined by what he did on the baseball diamond.
“I always want to remind people that baseball and sports is not everything there is in life. I want people to know that God, Salvation and how you treat other people is all that matters,” he said. “After baseball there’s still a whole life that I have to live. Hopefully I won’t be remembered as someone who was all about baseball and was a terrible person, but instead was someone that worked hard and was always someone that people could talk to.”