By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Writer
If you know anything about the great game of baseball, you know that anything can and will happen throughout a season. For the players on the McKinney High Lions baseball team, all they are trying to do is stay alive in the District 10-4A playoff race, before their season is called out on strikes and they are done for good.
“Playoffs aren’t out of the question,” said junior catcher Dalton Harris. “We still have nine more district games, and although we can’t afford many losses to keep the hope alive, the spots are still very much up for grabs.”
The Lions are currently 4-10 overall in 2012 and sit in last place in District 10-4A at 0-5, a position that is very unfamiliar with a program that has seen playoff baseball year after year for the past decade. After several years of dominant players like Alex Baker, Zach Lee, and Matt Lipka anchoring the Lions success, MHS is experiencing some growing pains on and off the field this season with several key players seeing their first varsity experience this spring.
When asked if the influx of youth on the varsity level was a positive for the Lions, senior leader Anthony Hermelyn said that the experience would only make the team better in the future, but also said it has allowed the players to become more versatile and find different roles on the diamond.
“There have been some positives seen throughout the season. For example, some players have found homes in different defensive positions then they might of found themselves at before the season, allowing them to become more versatile as a ballplayer,” said Hermelyn. “Another big positive is that young players who are new to the varsity level are gaining some experience that should hopefully pay off in the following years.”
However with inexperience comes the natural growing pains, and the Lions have seen this most impact the offensive side of the game in 2012. Through the squad’s first five district games, MHS has been outscored 34-8 with its game-high in runs only being 3, which was against Richardson Pearce last Friday night.
“As a team we have lots of room for improvement on the offensive end of the game,” said Hermelyn regarding the Lion’s offensive woes. “We’ve struggled quite a bit this year and if we’re going to be successful in the rest of the season, we as a team are going to have to step it up in that aspect of the game.”
Now while being outscored by 26 runs in five games doesn’t speak well of the offense, giving up 5.2 runs a ballgame isn’t exactly where you want to be as a pitching staff and a defense.
“Our pitching needs to get better,” said Harris. “The guys are doing a great job throwing hard and playing their position, but throwing strikes is something we’ve been struggling with early on. We need to throw more over the plate, be more consistent, and walk and hit fewer batters.”
Despite the team’s poor district start, head coach Jeremy Price has continued to preach “mental focus and preparation” before every game, and instead of trying to do too much on the field, to just go out there and play baseball. It doesn’t appear anyone in the Lions baseball program is close to giving up on the season, but if MHS can’t begin to turn things around soon, the hole will get too deep for them to get out of.
“The seniors really need to step up and take this team where we all know we are capable of going,” said Harris. “If we just throw strikes and put the ball in play, good things will happen for us. Just getting the positive momentum going our way is probably the main obstacle we have to overcome to go on to the next level.”
One of the impact players in the first half of the season for the Lions has been sophomore Brad Vassar, who despite a 1-3 record on the mound with a 5.14 ERA, has been the team’s best offensive weapon, batting .447 and leading the team in home runs (2) and RBI’s (15). Hermelyn is the second best hitter in the Lions lineup, hitting .382 and second on the team in RBI’s with 9.
“On the field I try to contribute to my team’s success in any way I can,” said Hermelyn when asked about his impact on the baseball field. “Coach Price puts me in a lot of different positions on the field, and I try to perform to the best of my abilities at each of those positions.”
For the Lions and their fans to scrap their way back into postseason contention, they are going to need a lot of ‘W’s’ in the result column over the next couple of weeks, starting with their road game at Wylie East this Tuesday night.
“At this point in the season, with the situation we are in, we can’t allow ourselves to look past the next game on the schedule,” said Hermelyn about the Lions approach to the remaining nine district games.
“You can only win one game at a time, and we really have to focus on that concept in order to make a run back into contention.”
Below is the remaining schedule for the Lions.
Date: Team (Time)
March 27th: @ Wylie East (7:30)
March 30th: @ Highland Park (7:30)
March 31st: vs. Rowlett (1:30) NON-DISTRICT
April 3rd: @ Wylie (7:30)
April 5th: vs. Rockwall-Heath (7:30)
April 10th: @ Rockwall (7:30)
April 13th: vs. McKinney North (7:30)
April 17th: @ Richardson Pearce (7:30)
April 20th: vs. Wylie East (7:30)
April 21st: @ McKinney Boyd (2) NON-DISTRICT
April 27th: vs. Highland Park (7:30)
District 10-4A Standings (As of 3/27/12)
1. Rockwall 4-1
2. Rockwall-Heath 4-1
3. Wylie 4-1
4. McKinney North 3-2
5. Wylie East 3-2
6. Highland Park 1-4
7. Richardson Pearce 1-4
8. McKinney 0-5