For five seasons, Lawrence High coach Brad Stoll has coached baseball the only way he knows how — with high expectations and a biting sense of purpose.
Throughout the years, Stoll has had teams that he thought could have (or even should have) won a Class 6A state championship.
But this year, with a stellar group of seniors and strong supporting class at his disposal, the 1990 LHS graduate finally reached his sport’s mountain top.
For that, he earned the Journal-World’s All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year honor. But today, more than three weeks after watching his team celebrate its state title, Stoll is more than happy to pass the credit onto those around him who helped make it all possible.
“There’s that old phrase, ‘It’s not Xs and Os it’s Jimmys and Joes,’ and think we had some pretty good Jimmys and Joes this year,” Stoll said. “When you have a staff who believes in what you’re doing and you get kids, who are talented kids, to buy into it, then you’ve got something.”
To call what Stoll had this season something would be understating it drastically.
In addition to fielding a club capable of winning a state championship, Stoll produced the kind of baseball team that will be remembered at LHS for years to come.
That was by design. Partly because Stoll demanded it that way and partly because the LHS skipper who just completed his fifth season as the Lions’ head coach allowed his players to live it.
“We try to put them in as many adverse situations as possible,” Stoll said. “Whether that’s through the games we play or by making practices as tough as possible, we feel that’s important. At the same time, we had seniors who had been together for so long and they had a little swagger to them. We thought it was important to allow them to play with that swagger and even encouraged it at times.”
In guiding the Lions to a 21-4 record — including 16 wins in a row to close the season — and a Class 6A state championship, Stoll’s memory bank received more than its share of deposits along the way.
“Watching those kids dog pile was pretty emotional,” he said. “I think about it every day just because I envisioned that happening and to be able to see those kids sprint to the mound and celebrate like that was special.”
Although he’s happy to revel in what he and his staff and players accomplished, Stoll promises that he won’t rest on his laurels for too long.
“The day after the state title game when I drove to watch our freshman team play, I was thinking about how we were going to do it again,” he said.
With Stoll at the helm and a solid corps of returning players, the Lions may have a jumpstart on the competition.
“He knows baseball, he’s one of the best baseball minds I’ve ever been around, and he’s a great motivator and a great friend,” junior pitcher Albert Minnis said. “Above all of that though, he really emphasizes what Lawrence High is all about. When you put on the LHS uniform, the expectation is to win state. I don’t think Lawrence High could have a better coach leading a team to that goal.”