Freeman, Cheney set to shine on diamond in 2017

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Sophomore pitcher Wyatt Cheney (#23) prepares to let it fly from the mound. Cheney finished his freshman season with a 1.18 ERA. (Alex Rubio File Photo)

Sophomore pitcher Wyatt Cheney (#23) prepares to let it fly from the mound. Cheney finished his freshman season with a 1.18 ERA. (Alex Rubio File Photo)

By Mike Schoeffel

Last season, freshmen Wyatt Cheney and Chandler Freeman made their mark as the only two ninth graders on the Liberty Hill varsity baseball roster.

This season, with a year’s worth of experience under their belt, that duo is looking to play an even more important role under Head Coach Mike Kristan.

With that in mind, both players have put in the hours during the offseason with the aim of self improvement. Cheney has focused on “throwing more strikes and working on my change-up.” Freeman, meanwhile, honed in on “becoming a more complete hitter.”

Freeman said the playing time he earned as a freshman was invaluable.

“I was really grateful to have that experience,” he said. “Going into the season, I worked hard as I could and did everything I could to earn a spot. Thankfully, it worked out.”

Freeman’s and Cheney’s presence was felt most significantly on the mound last season. Freeman was a regular starter for the team, striking out 33 batters (second most on the team) in 31 innings of work. Cheney, on the other hand, was primarily used as a reliever. He ended the season with a miniscule 1.18 ERA, the lowest on the team for pitchers with a minimum of 15 innings.

Freeman and Cheney are capable position players, too.

Freeman spent some time at third base last season, driving in eight runs. Cheney, who played some infield, earned 18 at-bats throughout the course of the season, driving in three runs. Both players foresee last year’s early success spilling over in 2017. Freeman expects to contribute in the “middle of the batting order,” while Cheney said he hopes to be a force in the “core of our line-up.”

Cheney, who has played baseball for nine years, credits upperclassmen Connor Thompson and Turner Gryseels for having a “huge impact” on his high school career and giving him “very good advice” in the early stages of his varsity career. He harbored no expectations at the beginning of his freshman year. Instead, he let his skills and work ethic lead him wherever they may.

Sophomore Chandler Freeman (#5) rounds second base. Freeman struck out 33 batters as a freshman last season. (Alex Rubio File Photo)

Sophomore Chandler Freeman (#5) rounds second base. Freeman struck out 33 batters as a freshman last season. (Alex Rubio File Photo)

“Going into the year, I didn’t expect anything,” he said. “I just went out there and worked hard and just played. I learned what it takes to be a competitor at the varsity level.”

Freeman, too, absorbed a lot of wisdom during his freshman season. He said it taught him a lot about the “competitive atmosphere” of high school baseball and what it took to succeed at that level. He also points to Thompson, a senior this season, as a “close friend” that has helped him progress on the diamond.

Cheney and Freeman’s relationship is a source of strength, too. Each called the other their “best friend,” with Cheney adding that they were both “ecstatic to be able to play on the varsity team.”

“Playing alongside Wyatt is like playing alongside a brother,” said Freeman, who lists Mike Trout as his baseball role model. “We really bring the best out of each other and push each other to be better.”

Cheney, an admirer of Derek Jeter, had some kind words about his buddy, as well.

“Playing alongside my best friend has definitely pushed me to work harder and perform at a higher level,” he said.

With the regular season now underway, Cheney and Freeman will soon find out just how high they’ll be able to rise — together, and as sophomores.

Sports@LHIndependent.com

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