(KMAland) -- The fourth of five teams honored with this year’s KMA Sports Hall of Fame is actually two teams.
The Shenandoah 2000 and 2001 state baseball qualifiers will be honored in this year’s Hall of Fame.
“We had a great group of boys that really loved the game of baseball,” Coach Kevin Whitehill told KMA Sports. “They wanted to work hard to be successful, and they learned through educational-based athletics that if you put in the time and effort good things can possibly happen.”
Whitehill took over a program that wasn’t exactly in a good place in 1998. The Mustangs had not posted a winning season in 17 years before the 2000 squad broke through with a winning mark and a trip to state.
“I came down from Iowa Western Community College to watch a game because I knew that I had the opportunity to come in that fall,” Whitehill said. “I watched the boys as they were freshmen, and I remember seeing Ryan Grebert on the mound. I knew right away there was some potential to work around him and his obvious talents.”
Grebert and outfielder Brandon Bray were both first-team All-State choices in 2000 and 2001, leading what Whitehill described as a “collective effort” among the team.
“They all bought into the unity within the organization to support each and every member of the team,” he said. “These guys just decided they were going to put the time and the work in to be successful. That’s what happened.”
In 2000, Whitehill says they traveled to Missouri Valley for a substate final and beat Sergeant Bluff-Luton in one of Grebert’s finest pitching performances of his career.
“We knew we were facing a very good ball club,” he said. “They had a team batting average of .361 through the lineup. We knew that it was going to be a big task. I can remember Tyler McGinnis leading the way that day. The bus rolled in, and he calmly got up and said, ‘Boys, let’s go to state.’”
That proved to be Shenandoah baseball’s first state qualification, but it wasn’t the last from this talented group. In 2001, their substate final was a bit elementary.
“A lot of the confidence the boys gained after that first year of success really came to the forefront,” Whitehill said. “There was no doubt where we were heading after that ballgame. That one got done fast against a good quality opponent. Our boys were just ready to take care of business.”
The 2000 season ended in a state quarterfinal with a 2-0 loss to eventual state runner-up West Branch while the 2001 team lost 4-1 to Beckman Catholic in their own quarterfinal.
Shenandoah’s first two state baseball teams will be honored at some point at a Shenandoah event in the near future. Listen to the complete interview with Coach Whitehill linked below.
2020 KMA SPORTS HALL OF FAME CLASS