27 and counting: A season to remember

MILLBURY — Great baseball teams are comprised of great baseball players.
Lake’s baseball team is no different.
The Flyers, who matched the program’s highest win total with their 27th win in Thursday’s district
semifinal victory, have rattled off 27 consecutive wins to begin the season.
But the root of its winning comes from more than just a group of five-tool phenoms.
Lake has built a family.
“We played together at a young age. Us growing up together, it’s just awesome. Us seeing each other grow
and get better as we grow up, it’s really cool,” Lake’s senior catcher Dawson Delventhal said. “We’re a
family.”
One of Lake’s two senior aces, Austin Fouty agreed.
“We all know how we are together. And we just love the game of baseball.”
Long-time Flyers coach Greg Wilker, who surpassed 600 career wins earlier this season, knew his team
loved baseball and he knew his senior-laden group had talent.
But a record-setting run is hard to predict.
“No. I’m not going to lie. I thought we would be very competitive and we were going to be very athletic,”
he said. “But I think the league was a little young this year and that played to our advantage because
we have a lot of seniors.
“And those seniors have built that confidence. We just got on a roll and they enjoy being around each
other. And as a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
A roll is an understatement.
Across 27 games, Lake has allowed just 32 runs. Fouty and fellow ace Jacob Boelkens have combined to
allow just four earned runs with a combined 154 strikeouts. The team, with 226 strikeouts in 173
innings, has combined for a 0.769 ERA.
Nearly every starter is hitting above .300 and more than half of the lineup has more walks than
strikeouts. No player has more than 15 strikeouts, but no player has more than two home runs.
Instead, the team works like a well-oiled machine, churning out hit after hit — especially in critical
situations.
“Our confidence, we always have confidence we can hit the ball. We’re all good hitters wherever the ball
is placed by the pitcher,” Boelkens said. “We just find ways to get on base and then do the job.
“We just all like each other. Our chemistry is really good and everybody picks each other up no matter
what happens.”
Wilker knows that mindset is what has separated Lake — the only unbeaten team in Ohio across all four
divisions — from every other school in the state.
“They care about each other. This day and age, that’s hard to come by a lot of times,” Wilker said. “We
talk about being unselfish. The kids that aren’t playing all the time, they throw a great batting
practice, they make their teammates better.”
The only thing missing from the Flyers is recognition.
Despite being the state’s lone unbeaten, Lake was not ranked throughout the season, including an
11th-place finish in the final state poll. The Flyers are No. 1 in PrepBaseballReport’s power rankings,
but the state coaches have imperfect teams above the Flyers.
They don’t even need it as motivation.
“We talked to the kids early in the season about that when we were like 10-0 and I asked them: ‘Here’s
how it works, do you want me to send stuff in I will, if it’s important to you,’ but they said no coach
it doesn’t really matter to us,” Wilker said.
He used the NCAA basketball tournament as an example.
“I don’t know who the top four or five in the final rankings were, but I know who was in the Final Four,”
Wilker said.
“This group of kids, they don’t care about that. They just want to go play for each other.”
Playing for each other brought them an NBC championship and a sweep of the conference’s player of the
year awards.
What they’re still hoping it brings is its first district title since 2014 — and more.
“Really, league title was the only one,” Boelkens said of the team’s goals. “And then as we started
getting going we realized, yeah we’re good, but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“As we kept going we kept setting new goals, new goals trying to get farther and farther. And keep
playing as long as we can because we know it’s going to be over soon.”
And while the end is inching closer, the start began when the seniors were eighth-graders transitioning
into freshmen during summer football practice. Their motto was “how do you want to be remembered?”
The team has embraced that line during its magical 2019 run.
“That’s kind of been our motto this year — how do you want to be remembered,” Boelkens said. “We want to
go out the best we can and give our best shot.”
No matter the result in today’s district final against the state’s No. 1 team, this year’s Lake team can
be certain of one thing.
They will be remembered.