Crosslin credits hard work for turnaround

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / May 19, 2000

LUTCHER – The time is the summer of 1998. The Lutcher Bulldogs arebattling through a one-win American Legion schedule and are in the midst of changing coaches from Matt Dornier to Scott Tribble.

Flash forward two years to the present. Lutcher is coming off a 29-5season, one of the best in school history. The Bulldogs have captured theDistrict 9-3A championship and have advanced to the Class 3A quarterfinals.

A year earlier, Lutcher played in the Class 3A finals.

It was one of the biggest turnarounds in school history. And few playersepitomized it better than Rusty Crosslin.

Three years ago, Crosslin was riding the bench, watching his teammates take the field. In 1999, he would be one of the players leading the Bulldogs outonto that same field as district champions, earning District 9-3A MVP honors for his accomplishments.

“I worked hard in 10th grade and last year,” Crosslin, who started at third base and shortstop in 1999 before moving to second this year, said. “Iwanted to be on the field. I’m not a player who can sit on the bench andwatch everybody else. I don’t think I can help my team out by sitting on thebench.”Crosslin was used to being on the field, having played the sport since he was five years-old. Many of his teammates and opponents in those parish leagueswould go on to be his teammates at Lutcher.

“I think that was one of the reasons why we were pretty good in high school,” Crosslin said. “We had a pretty good bond together. No one playerstuck out. Everyone of us contributed. The district MVP is a tribute to myteammates. It was a total team effort and that is what I like about baseball.”Crosslin finished the 2000 season with a .421 batting average to go withfour home runs, 18 runs batted in and five stolen bases. He also saw actionon the mound, compiling a 7-2 record with a 2.78 earned run average and 53strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings. But more than the numbers, it was Crosslin’swork ethic that stuck out for Tribble.

“Rusty had a tremendous work ethic,” Tribble said. “Every day, he came topractice. He was a leader on the practice field, in the game. He wasn’t avocal leader. He led by his actions and example on the field. He didn’t talkabout what he was going to do. He just stepped up there and did it.”Crosslin said he got his work ethic from his father.

“He always told me if you want it, you have to go out and get it,” Crosslin said.

The Bulldogs went out and claimed a spot in the state championship game following the 1999 season. One of the turning points along the way was a wild20-19 victory at Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.

“That was when the team became united together,” Crosslin, who hit a home run in the seventh inning to put the Bulldogs ahead by two, said.

E.D. White defeated the Bulldogs, 11-1, in the championship game. Lutcher,which had struggled with the Cardinals in recent years, got over that hump this season by defeating them three times on the way to the district title.

The Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Teurlings Catholic, the eventual state runners-up.

Crosslin will look to continue his baseball career on the next level. The seniorsaid he is definitely going to college and hopes to be able to play baseball there. In the meantime, he is planning to play in a league this summer.And as for the incoming group of ballplayers entering the program, Crosslin said the best advice he could give them was to work hard and to listen to coach Tribble.

“Don’t ever think you are bigger than the program,” Crosslin said. “Nobody isbigger than the game. I learned a lot about work ethic here and that hardwork paid off.”

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