Winners of their first three games, Dave King’s Lehman Cavaliers cannot rest on their legacy, or especially their laurels. There’s a lot of work to do if they want to keep alive one of the area’s most impressive streaks.
Sidney – Lehman coach Dave King gave the usual pep talk to his troops after Tuesday afternoon’s 11-1 pasting of Ridgemont High School. Like so many other Lehman wins in recent years, it only went five innings.
Ridgemont, outmanned at every position on the field, simply wasn’t competitive with the likes of Lehman, which improved its early record to 3-0.
The Cavaliers scored once in the first, twice in the second, and seven times in the third inning to streak to what looked like a “run rule” 10-0 verdict, only to see Ridgemont score an unearned run on a base hit and a couple of errors in the top of the fourth.
Lehman came right back to restore their 10-run margin in the bottom of the inning, and won 11-1!
King was talkative afterwards, as he usually is…one of the most affable and cooperative members of the coaching fraternity. He loves baseball and he loves his kids, and he’s never at a loss for words on either topic.
But unlike teams of the past, he knows that this year the “cycle” has its foot on his neck. The “cycle” being…that what goes around comes around in terms of talent and experience, or a combination of both. Dave King is the first to tell you…this is a different Lehman, with a different challenge.
“We’re young,” he said. “No foolin’, I mean, we’re really young. We don’t have the kind of talent and experience we’ve had in the past, and if you think I’m kidding go look where all those kids are. They’re all playing college baseball somewhere.”
For that reason, yes, it is a different Lehman. There is no Alex Smith to anchor the pitching. And there is no D.J. Hemm, or someone named Spearman, to jump-start the offense.
And for that same reason there’s a different challenge with this year’s team. The Cavaliers have made the regional round of the tournament six times in the past ten seasons, including three of the past five years. That fact could be in jeopardy in 2016 if Kings Cavs don’t grow to the task, and grow to it fast!
“It’s the first time I can remember when I only have one experienced pitcher coming back,” said King Tuesday. “That’s Nate Bosway, but he had Tommy John surgery ten months ago and has just been recently cleared to throw. Obviously, we want to bring him along slowly.
“But we’re so inexperience at the other positions, as well. We have Max Schutt back behind the plate (a four-year starter), but he represents most of our game experience. Dylan Arnold, Parker Riley, Bosway and Stephen Monnin have all played, but they’ve been a part of those other successful teams with a lot of leadership. Now it’s going to be up to them to bring the leadership.”
Thinking more on his situation, he added with a laugh. “I don’t think anyone’s gonna’ feel sorry for us, though.”
But there’s no optimism like youthful optimism, and while Schutt and company understand their deficiencies in experience, they DO expect to grow up quickly.
“For me, it means a lot to get back to the regional round of the tournament,” said the Cavaliers’ catcher, who went one for three in Tuesday’s win. “I knew we would be young this year, and I wasn’t expecting that much, but coming out 3-0 we’ve hit the ball well, the defense has played pretty good, the pitching’s not doing too bad, so I’m thinking we might have another shot at it.
“Kinger always tells us that the guys who came before set the tone, and I agree. I’ve played on some good teams here at Lehman, and it’ll be more difficult without the experienced talent we’ve had in the past three years, but we just have to work hard, get better, and follow in those steps.”
Junior Brandon Simmons got that opportunity on Tuesday, winning his first varsity game as a starting pitcher.
“He didn’t do too bad,” said King to his assembled team afterwards. “Now he (Simmons) needs to get better the next time out, and we have to get better as a team, as well. The little things you’re not accustomed to doing because you haven’t played before…they can kill you.”
“We may be young,” added senior outfielder Stephen Monnin. “But I definitely want to keep the streak alive. I think as we get into the season we’re going to get a lot better. Obviously we’re going to need pitching…I’ll have to pitch, Max will have to pitch, Parker, maybe we get Bosway back…we’ll need everyone, but I think we have a real good chance of keeping the streak alive.
“What people don’t realize,” he continued, “…they think Lehman’s a football and basketball school. But when you look out there at the scoreboard and see all the times we’ve won district it’s pretty obvious that Lehman’s a baseball school.”
And that, of course, will be tested in 2016 with diminished numbers and diminished experience.
But thankfully, in Biblical context, the spirit IS willing, if the body, for this year, is a bit weaker.
Such is the difference; and such is the challenge!