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Rapp calmly guides Warriors into Playoffs

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David Rocha Photo Gateway Christian’s Jaydon Stephens tags out a runner trying to steal second base. His teammate #14 Chase Winkler shows his approval of the out.

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For many baseball coaches starting 5-5 is a reason to panic, but not for Gateway Christian coach Rick Rapp. Rapp is experiencing the joys of living his faith and being a coach at the same time. The bonus is he is experiencing a rebirth in being able to coach his grandson, Jaydon Stephens. Stephens has put together a strong second half of the season ending up, 5-2 while doing it in dominating fashion.

“ I would say the major difference in Jaydon (Stephens) pitching this year is he has better control of his curveball, Rapp said. “His fastball is pretty consistent. This year he can throw his curveball for a strike. He is able to keep the other team off balance, his control is outstanding. He has walked only six batters all year long and he’s a competitor.”

In his last two games, he shut down district champion Melrose 16-2 with an assortment of pitches, while retiring 15 straight batters after giving up two runs. In his last start at home against Floyd, Stephens lost a no-hitter when a Floyd batter hit a single to right field.

“I loved coaching my son, Tim,” Rapp said. “If you asked him he would say that I got on him harder than I did the other players. Now, I have a hard time getting on Jayden (Stephens), I enjoy being around him and the team so much.”

While teaching baseball, Rapp hopes to add more hardware to his trophy case. He is a winner of multiple Blue Trophy’s and hopes that Stephens and his teammates are playing at a high level right now in order to get off the snide of disappointing defeats in Albuquerque.

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Stephens feels like the biggest difference between this season and last was he has gotten stronger. He lifted weights and started throwing in December, a month earlier than he had in years past.

“I worked on my curveball a lot,” Stephens said. “I worked on it a lot over spring break.”

A lot was expected from the Warriors as they only lost one senior off of last year’s team. Coming into the playoffs last year the Warriors had very little momentum going for them as they lost a doubleheader to Floyd, 11-1, 11-0, before losing at Rio Rancho to Mesilla Valley Christian School.

“Last year was different,” Rapp said. “This year we are playing our best baseball. We are going to have to play well to defeat Cimarron. We’ve never played them, we have to take it one game at a time. We know they won their district. We just have to take it one game at a time in Albuquerque.”

Stephens thinks the biggest difference in the team this season and last is the Warriors have a deeper pitching rotation. With four-five guys who can take the ball and throw strikes to keep them in games until their bats come around.

“Our turnaround this season is we worked on our hitting,” Stephens said. “Anything we weren’t getting right, we would go into the cages and get extra hitting in.”

The journey to the blue trophy begins today at 4 p.m at Rio Rancho High School.