Kyle Mueller would have been proud of Crofton’s win over Harrisburg on Thursday.
The Bluejays (Nebraska) picked up a 5-1 win over the Woodies in the opening round of the Class B state amateur baseball tournament at Cadwell Park.
The 2019 season is the first without Mueller since 2009. Mueller died in January during a car accident. Mueller was 28. The Bluejays have played with a heavy heart this season and that continued Thursday.
“We let it all on the line today for him,” teammate and friend Scot Donner said. “He always hustles. He always dives. He makes unbelievable catches in the outfield. We just wanted to play like that today for him and we sure did.”
Mueller, whose No. 55 jersey hangs in their dugout on game days, is never far from Crofton’s mind.
“We’ve been working our butts off all year,” said Donner, who became emotional when talking about his friend. “This whole year has been about 5’s. We say it every game.”
The Crofton baseball team and Mueller’s family have received a host of support this season. The Kyle Mueller Memorial First Dakota Classic American Legion Tournament was held in June. Rival South Central League teams have offered support, while Cadwell Park hosted an amateur baseball doubleheader fundraiser earlier in the season.
“It was unbelievable,” Donner said. “Small towns in Nebraska -- or in the Midwest in general -- when people are in tragedy and hurt, they come together and they are there for them. There’s unbelievable support.”
There’s also been a GoFundMe page setup to help raise funds for Mueller’s wife, Lakyn, and three sons, Reed, Rhet and Riggs. The GoFundMe page has raised $115,215.
“The support was overwhelming for them,” Donner added. “It was awesome to see. The South Central League did a bunch of different stuff for the family and community and it was great to see that.”
Donner said Mueller loved being a Crofton Bluejay. He was the first one at the ballpark and lifted up his teammates with his play and demeanor.
“He loved it so much,” Donner said. “He had that pep in his step and whenever we were down or not doing well, he would spark us somehow.”
Donner helped spark Crofton on Thursday. He struck out three batters, scattered seven hits and gave up one run in his complete-game performance. He also recorded an RBI as Crofton advanced to the second round during its season dedicated to Mueller.
“It was a weird season for us, not having him out there,” Donner said. “But it was great to get that win today for him.”