The day after basketball season came to an abrupt end, Geoff Coyne put away his sneakers, pulled out his baseball gear and went to the batting cage.
The North Kingstown High School senior and his teammates were eager to get onto the field.
“We were all ready for it,” Coyne said. “I had talked to a bunch of the kids on the team and they had all been preparing.”
The baseball season never happened, canceled due to the coronavirus. It was a one-two punch for Coyne and teammate Mason Walsh, both of whom play basketball and baseball. For all the seniors, many of whom played together on a Wickford Little League district championship team and a middle-school state runner-up squad, the cancellation stopped what they hoped would be a memorable final season together.
“I think we were going to have six seniors this year and probably five of them were from that middle school team,” Coyne said. “We had a bond that we’ve had since we were young. We’ve all been playing together for a long time.”
They still had hope for a spring season back when the first dominoes of coronavirus impact began to fall. The boys basketball team had played its opening round game when the remainder of the state tournament was canceled. For the Skippers, the chance to avenge their Division I title game loss to Bishop Hendricken and to defend their 2019 state title, went out the door.
“After we lost the division championship, we felt like we had a pretty good shot at the championship title. We knew that we were close with them the whole game. We were up seven with about a minute fifty left and we just couldn’t close it out,” Coyne said. “The state tournament was going to be kind of our revenge tournament, I guess you could call it. We played them close twice during the season. We felt like we were almost there. We just couldn’t close it out. So that’s what coach was emphasizing going into the state tournament. We wanted to beat them at the Ryan Center at the end – that was the final goal.”
Coyne came off the bench for the 2019 championship team. He made more significant contributions this year as a starter on the wing and the team’s designated defensive stopper.
“I was really looking forward to the tournament,” he said. “Obviously as a junior, we went to the Ryan Center. This year, I had a bigger role on the team. To get to the Ryan Center and play there, that would have been amazing.”
Baseball offered hope for a new quest. The Skippers went 7-11 last year and narrowly missed out on the playoffs. It was the first year back for longtime head coach Kevin Gormley, who had taken four years off. The seniors, in particular, wanted to get things moving in the right direction this year. After all, they were no strangers to success.
“We’ve always known we had something when it came to baseball,” Coyne said. “Our Little League teams were great, our middle school team was really good. So we always knew NK had a strong baseball program and we were trying to build it back up. Last year was kind of a transition year, but I felt like this year, we had higher goals. We had most of the kids from our eighth grade team that came in second in the middle school championship. I think we could have made a good run and surprised some teams.”
Coyne was hoping to keep moving in the right direction, too, after a mid-season turnaround last year.
“I started the season in center field. About halfway through the season, I wasn’t doing so well. I had a talk with coach and I sat for a couple of games,” he said. “The message from coach was, ‘We need you to keep working.’ And I ended up doing really well after that. I kind of came back from my early-season struggles and finished the season out well, which prepared me for a big senior season. I was looking forward to it.”
Coyne is planning to attend Christopher Newport University in Virginia next year, where he will attempt to walk on to the basketball team. Before that, he and his teammates are hoping for one more baseball season this summer, in Connie Mack or legion ball.
“Getting back on the field would be a relief,” Coyne said. “The best part of baseball is just being with the team. Most of the guys on the high school team play on the Connie Mack team. To get to go out one last time and play with them would be pretty special.”