A look at the impact of seniors Cameron Lee and Jake Ryan on Tolton baseball

Tolton seniors Cameron Lee and Jake Ryan have excelled together in two different sports in recent years.

In the fall, Ryan and Lee produce exciting plays on the offensive end of the football field. Once winter ends and spring begins, the two trade in their football boots and football helmets for baseball cleats and shoulder pads and bat mouthpieces and gloves.

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The two previously led Tolton football to new heights in 2023, when Tolton won its first district title. Ryan, the Trailblazers’ quarterback, scored 41 touchdowns. Lee had more than 900 receiving yards, five scores on punt and punt returns and 60 tackles on the defensive end.

This baseball year, Tolton (15-3) is off to a good start. The momentum of the prosperous football season contributed to the transfer of the diamond.

“I mean, it was the best season in Tolton football history that we had this year, so when I found out about that, I already felt good,” Lee said. “I just felt like baseball would be the same, and we started off just as hard as we did in football.”

Lee and Ryan were the guiding lights of the team during this process.

“They’ve done a fantastic job, you know, with Jake and Cam leading the football team. They come into this role already with experience and just understand that this is their last ride for them,” Tolton head coach said. Erich Chick said, “They want to try to get on top and run; they’ve been through, you know, some of the last few years.

Their leadership style is humble and helpful, which has helped the team on the right track.

“Instead of bossing kids around, they’re helping them, directing them, and I’m very proud of what they’re doing,” Chick said.

Lee and Ryan were sophomores on Tolton’s 2021-2022 state championship team, which defeated Springfield Catholic in Springfield by a score of 8-4. It is a precious memory that they will never forget.

“I remember being a sophomore looking up to the upperclassmen, but also trying to play the biggest role I could as an underclassman,” Lee said. “It’s definitely harder to be seen and do what you do, but I just remember having a great time. The trip was so fun to be back in Springfield, and the memories we made was something I wanted to do again this year.

That’s something that’s possible for Tolton, as they are the fourth-ranked team in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association polls. Lee compared the start similarly to that of the 2022 championship team.

Two days after a 10-5 win over No. 2 Blair Oaks, a game in which Ryan pitched well, the Traiblazers posted a 16-1 victory in Hallsville on Friday.

It was just another normal day for Lee on the baseball diamond in Friday’s win.

Before the Trailblazers left the first inning against Hallsville, Lee had two singles, the first of which was deep to left field. In the next inning, he crushed a ball back into left field for a double, which was followed by a triple in the fourth inning, completing a 4 for 4 performance at the plate.

Not to mention, he also excelled on the pitching mound.

“My mentality is really not to worry about the little things,” Lee said. “When you make a simple mistake or try to bounce back next time.”

That’s the mentality that both players help bring to the younger guys. Although mistakes may happen, they can always recover from them.

“We’re a little bit of a younger team and we’re just keeping the focus so other guys understand that mistakes don’t matter that much and we’ve got to get rid of that,” Ryan said. “So it was good to be able to help some other guys, and they’re learning from us.”

When all is said and done at the high school level, Jake Ryan and Cam Lee will be remembered as two of the most decorated athletes in Tolton history. After this season, they will head to different places for their collegiate careers.

Lee is currently signed to play baseball at Missouri Western, while Ryan is headed to Truman State to play football. There are plenty of good things Lee and Ryan have to say about each other; they rode the buses together for every baseball and football game and cherished memories playing summer baseball.

“(He’s) a crazy athlete, both baseball and football, in just about everything he does. He is a great athlete and just fun to be around,” Ryan said. “He is always energetic and brings great energy and leadership to any team he is on.”

Ryan’s presence with Lee has helped him become a better player.

“Just playing with him all those years was the best,” Lee said. ‘He’s one of the hardest workers I know. And I certainly mean that. Working with him over the last five to six years has helped me become a better baseball player.”

Their time at Tolton is not over yet. The Trailblazers have 12 regular season games before they enter the postseason, a path Lee and Ryan know all too well.

“They want to build the foundation that we laid for this program for these young guys. To hold them up a little bit as they leave for their next part of their journey,” Chick said. “So their experience with what they bring to the table is vast. They understand what the expectations are, they know what it takes to get there.”

The Trailblazers are back in action today as they travel to Booneville for the Booneville Wood Bat Tournament. They will face the Pirates (12-4) and Pilot Grove (8-3). Times are to be determined.

“A state championship. That’s what I’m looking for,” Ryan said. “That’s what the teams are looking for.”