By Kyle Daubs
Had the pandemic not shut down the season last year, we might have talked about this earlier.
On June 1, the Charleston High School baseball team took down Olney 13-2 in non-conference action. At the time, it may have just felt like another win.
But the victory held special meaning – the 350th win for baseball coach Derrick Landrus.
Anyone who knows Landrus knew he likely made a mental note in his head. After all, he is one of the biggest stat-heads in the county. With that said, career accomplishments were on hold as Charleston entered the IHSA Class 3A playoffs.
It’s been a successful ride this season. Charleston won a Regional Championship, as well as their first Sectional Championship since 1960, and finished in the Elite 8 after a 7-5 loss to Springfield High School last week. The 26-10 season bumped Landrus’ overall record to 354-193-2 in 17 years coaching at his alma mater.
“Been coaching a while and we have had a lot of good players,” said Landrus. “That’s the answer to that. Hopefully, a lot of guys look back at the system and the program that we have. There’s a lot to be proud of. I’m always thinking about the guys from the past and how they paved the way year in and year out. I’m happy for all the guys that have played.”
The next career mark could happen next season. Former teacher and baseball coach Bob Lawrence stands as the all-time leader in wins at CHS. In 19 years (1986-2004), Lawrence compiled a 359-222 overall record.
Landrus only needs six wins to overtake that title as the winningest coach in school history.
“He was my coach and I have all the respect in the world for him,” said Landrus. “I loved playing for him. I learned a lot from him. It’s unbelievable and quite an honor to be in the position to be in first, especially as long as he did it.”
The record might have been broken by now had the pandemic not wiped away all of last season, especially with what Landrus called his “most talented” team on paper in 2020.
“Devastating,” said Landrus. “Last year, we just kept getting delayed, and then it was eventually canceled. We had a special group last year. I’m usually a pessimistic guy, but what could have happened last year could have been special. I told some guys we would have been hard-pressed to win close to 30 games with the pitchers we had had we stayed healthy.”
That’s why this team will always have a special place in his memory bank given the obstacles the team was able to overcome.
“It was devastating for the seniors last year,” said Landrus. “We had some good players develop this year and have come a long way. We started the year not hitting the way we thought, but they continued to plug away. By the end, they had a few games under their belt. It’s not easy to hit a baseball after not hitting one in a couple of years.”
Over the past 17 years, Landrus has won four Regional titles, two Apollo Conference championships and won 26 games in a season three times. With plenty of years of potential left, Landrus doesn’t look too far down the line.
His oldest son, Cade, played his final game in the Elite 8, while his younger son, Luke, will be a sophomore next year.
“You take one year at a time,” said Landrus. “You try to prepare your freshmen and sophomores on how we do things. It was new with our juniors this year because we missed coaching them as sophomores. Hopefully, we’ll get to coach them next year and have success with some guys while enjoying playing baseball.”