By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
LAPEL, Ind. —
With 11 straight wins between April 25 and May 10 last year, the Lapel baseball program announced it had arrived.
And this season has the potential to be even better.
The Bulldogs return 70 percent of their at-bats from a 23-8 campaign that ended with a one-run loss to Wapahani in a Class 2A sectional championship game.
Gone to graduation are Evan Mohr and Boston Fields. In their place is a core of leadership led by senior Adam Taylor and including senior Jacob Troxell, junior Dane Mason and sophomore Brady Cherry.
That fearsome foursome combined to hit .308 with seven home runs and 83 RBIs last season. Mason, in particular, is one of the area’s most dangerous offensive threats coming off a season in which he hit .414 with four homers and 35 RBIs.
The Bulldogs also will get a full season from senior Jacob Young, who hit .405 with 15 RBIs in 15 games last year after being called up from the junior varsity.
Throw in a group of hungry youngsters competing for spots to fill out the lineup, and it’s easy to see where coach Brad Lantz’s boundless enthusiasm comes from.
“Guys have the itch,” he said. “They know what it takes (to succeed). I think we have the pitching to do it. It’s really going to depend on what we do on defense.”
The Bulldogs allowed 63 unearned runs in 2012, and cleaning up that area of the game is priority No. 1. But defense figures to be tough on everyone early after unseasonable snowfall wiped out the majority of outdoor practice.
Lantz has taken his team out to the football field on a couple of occasions just so his outfielders can see some fly balls against the Indiana sky, and Lapel was fortunate enough to play a scrimmage against Guerin Catholic.
But, for the most part, the Bulldogs have been limited to working out in the gym like almost everyone else.
“Everyone’s in the same boat,” Lantz said. “Everyone’s trying to find a dry place to play.”
Lapel is scheduled to open the season Monday against Wes-Del — a make-up date for one of three games the Bulldogs lost to the snow. On Tuesday, the team jumps feet first into the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament with a first-round date against defending champion Alexandria at Memorial Field.
“You can’t be the best without beating the best,” Lantz said. “Coach Closser is a great coach, and he’s going to have his guys ready to go. This tournament is always a good measuring bar to see where you’re at and what you need to work on.”
The Bulldogs opened last year’s event with an 11-1 loss against Alexandria and a 10-0 loss to school-system rival Frankton. But they bounced back to beat the Tigers 12-7 and the Eagles 5-2 later in the year.
Like any coach, Lantz would love to get off to a fast start. But he said wins and losses don’t mean as much in the early going as the quality of play.
“If you’re playing well and doing things the right way,” he said, “the wins are going to come.”