Deer Lakes cuts down on chatter, continues to win in Section 3-AA
Compared to previous seasons, less bravado-laden chatter comes from the dugout occupied by Deer Lakes' baseball team these days.
But there's no lack of self-assurance among the Lancers (10-2, 8-0).
Slightly more reserved than their recent predecessors, the players are in the midst of a statement-making run. They've won nine in a row, and with a two-game lead in Section 3-AA, they're in position to become section champions for a third straight season.
“Over the past couple years, we've been a really obnoxious team,” said senior Kevin Begley, a three-season starting infielder. “This year, we're a lot more low-key. We're a lot quieter. But we still support each other and have each other's backs.”
Part of the change is due to the personalities of the leaders.
Two losses in the season's first three games provided the players additional reasons to embrace humility. Deer Lakes lost, 3-2, to Riverview and fell, 9-5, to Indiana two days later.
“Coach told us that a couple of the players, myself included, might've had too much swagger and too much confidence,” Begley said. “We kind of toned that down a bit and have come to practice ready to work hard, and we have a different mindset when we're playing games. That's the big thing for us: Playing with a chip on our shoulder instead of looking back on what players like me and (senior Adam) Fredley did last year and the noise we made.”
If Deer Lakes maintains its streak through the rest of the season, it'll surpass the win totals of the 2011 and 2012 section championship teams, which went 13-5 and 11-9, respectively. The 2011 team went 11-1 in Section 3, while last season's group went 9-3 to finish in a three-way tie with Freeport and Burrell.
A double-digit win streak might also eliminate the underdog status within the WPIAL that coaches and players believe Deer Lakes has yet to shed.
“I always have confidence in our kids — always — but I wouldn't say the rest of the WPIAL does, and that's fine with us,” coach Jon Pedrosky said. “It's nice to get under the radar a little bit. We've had a little success the last few years, and the kids definitely deserve the credit, but I still think we're maybe a little underrated.”
Hopes of a section title hinge on Deer Lakes' defense and its small ball-oriented offense. The Lancers have two one-run wins and two two-run victories.
“Close and low-scoring, those are our kinds of games,” junior infielder Todd Coleman said. “We need to work on our bats a little and make sure we (mentally) stay in the games until the end.”
Deer Lakes' maturation from middle-of-the-pack program to perennial power is ongoing. Handling a lengthy win streak is the latest test in the process.
“I've seen it before with our previous teams: We get on these winning streaks, and we start relaxing at practice, taking it a little easy, acting like we've already done something,” Begley said. “I think as leaders, we're ready to keep that in check and remind everyone that our main goals haven't been reached yet.”