|Lake baseball eyes more success 3-27-13|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON, Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 27 March 2013 09:52|
MILLBURY - Lake's baseball team is starting over.
But the Flyers don't believe they're headed for a rebuilding season.
Instead, they're setting their sights on their fourth straight 20-win season and third consecutive league championship.
Lake returns just three starters and three other lettermen from last season when it finished 24-6 overall and won the Northern Buckeye Conference title with an 11-3 record.
The Flyers also earned Division III sectional and district championships before losing to Carroll Bloom-Carroll in a regional semifinal.
Lake is 67-17 overall and 30-7 in league play the last three seasons.
"Our goal is to win the league every year," said junior Cody Witt, one of Lake's returning lettermen. "We have a great tradition here and we want to keep that going every year.
"We pass the tradition onto the freshmen as soon as they come into the program, so they know what to expect and what Lake baseball is all about. We've played together since we were little kids and our chemistry is just phenomenal."
The return of junior pitcher/first baseman Jayce Vancena gives Lake one of the best players in the NBC.
Vancena, who already has committed to the University of Michigan, was 3-0 with 10 saves and a 0.84 earned-run average last season. He struck out 37 in 31 2/3 innings, while allowing 14 hits and 10 walks.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander was second on the team last season with a .351 average. He also had 21 runs batted in.
"Our goals are the same every year, but we don't focus on them," Vancena said "We just focus on playing hard and improving every day. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself."
Witt saw action as Lake's second baseman and designated hitter last season, while senior lettermen Casey Blank received playing time in the outfield.
"Some of us are stepping into a bigger role this year, but that's normal," Witt said. "It's going to be different, but we're confident in what we can do."
The other returning lettermen are juniors - pitcher/outfielder Brad Ackerman, catcher Nick Walsh and first baseman/designated hitter Anthony Pratt. The team consists of two seniors, eight juniors and three sophomores.
"We'll have to be patient as they gain experience," Lake coach Greg Wilker said. "A lot of these kids haven't had a lot of varsity action, so we should improve as they get that varsity experience.
"The sophomores on the varsity last year didn't get a lot of playing time, but I still think they're going to be outstanding players," Wilker added. "It's just that they were stuck behind a tremendous senior class last year."
Lake, as usual, expects to have solid pitching and defense.
Even though the Flyers won 24 games last season, they only hit .294. And Lake's average was only .267 without Vancena and Corey Hotmer.
Hotmer, who graduated, led Lake with with a .383 average and 29 RBI.
"I always tell the kids, 'I don't care what the sport is, football, basketball or baseball, if you play good defense, you give yourself a chance to win.'" Wilker said. " That's what we're trying to do this year. We'll play very good defense."
Vancena is the ace for the Flyers, who graduated three outstanding pitchers. Jake Materni, Nathan Scanlan and Josh Tantari were a combined 16-5.
"When (Vancena) is on the mound, we expect to be very competitive," Wilker said.
"It's a different mind-set," Vancena said of the move from relieving to starting. "You really need to have confidence to go out and throw strikes and have confidence in your defense, and I do."
Hitting and offense are Lake's major concerns.
"We didn't hit for a high average last season, but we made good contact," Wilker said. "We were tough to strike out and we have to do that again this year. We have to throw strikes and play good defense. My biggest concern right now is having consistent hitting. I'm not sure what we're going to get there yet."
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