Story originally published in 05/17 issue of Scout magazine
Although the baseball team ranked twelfth nationally in preseason for the first time in the school’s history, the boys refuse to let the pressure break the indescribable connection that brings about much of their success.
When asked how to describe the team’s dynamic, Nicholas Bandura (12) had one simple word come to mind:
“Goofy,” Bandura said. “Everyone is goofy.”
Bandura was not the only one to describe the team this way. Because of their extensive experience playing together, the Indians have been able to use their various personalities to their advantage.
“I think all of our different personalities make it better for us. We have our kids that are kind of serious and we have our kids that are jokesters, so it makes it more fun and more relaxed during games. You have your leaders to keep the kids in check because you need that every once in awhile. Everybody plays their role. You know you have to do your job and play your part. If you make a mistake you have your teammates to help you out,” Jarrett Lopez (12) said.
With 13 out of the 19 players on the varsity team being seniors, the upperclassmen have spent years creating emotional ties, which leads them to working well as one unit.
“I think the success comes from the 13 seniors because we have been playing all together since we were freshmen. So, I think our chemistry will be there and we’ll all be able to play together successfully,” Lopez said.
Not only do the players have a role with their positions, but they also have a specific personality. The big personalities on the team lead the players to feel open with one another and go to their fellow teammates if they need help.
“Everyone fits in the mix very well, and I think everyone gets along very well. When I need a pep talk, I would go to Ben Nisle, he pumps me up. The jokester on the team is definitely Jason Lamont. He cracks me up everyday. We have quite a few silent leaders on the team because a lot of us lead by performing,” Chris Fundich (12) said.
Matt may be a natural-born leader, but he got his inspiration from a former teammate.
“Being a freshman when Johnny Gbur, Class of 2013, was the senior was kind of a big deal because I didn’t play much varsity but saw enough to see how Gbur acted with his teammates so model him and I act how he acted. Before games I’ll give a little bit of a pep talk to everybody and tell them about the guys we’re playing. Then during the game keeping everyone involved vocally and having everybody chatter on the bench,” Matthew Litwicki (12) said.
Being a leader doesn’t always mean you have to be vocal. Some of the most influential leaders on the team don’t always speak, but lead by example.
“I try to do everything right, hustle on and off the field and make no errors. That’s a big thing. I am always cheering on my teammates. When I leave I hope to leave the work ethic of the team because it’s a lot to understand and take over once us seniors leave.” Jason Lamont (12) said.
Because of the high ranking, the team has to adjust to what their priorities are.
“We can’t worry about the rankings or anything else. We just have to focus on one game at a time and play to our best ability. We have an experienced team and pitching staff this year and I also think our offense will surprise people. The bonds we have with this group are very strong since a lot of us have played with each other growing up and we continue to build on that everyday,” Benjamin Nisle (12) said.
One of the team’s biggest goals is to come out with a Sectional championship this year, especially since they have lost in the finals for the previous two years.
“We have been kind of let down the last couple of years. I feel like we can do something special this year. We definitely have the potential to go farther. Our team has the talent to win Sectionals as long as we play our game, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Lopez said.
The team has to focus on winning as one unit to win as many games as possible.
“All we do is just play the game, take everything day by day and progress as a team,” Bradley Loden (12) said.
Even with new coach Mr. Mike Swartzentruber, Business, the chemistry between the players has not faded.
“[Coach Swartzentruber] has influenced us a lot to work hard and work together and make sure that’s the main focus for every practice and game. I think we’ll have a really good regular season, and that we can go far in the postseason. We have a really good group of guys, and we all work hard and work together to get the one goal of winning, “ Hunter Mihalic (12) said.
Although the coach has not had a lot of time to get to know his team, he is impressed with how well his team has worked with him.
“I think we’ve meshed together well, coach and player. I’m still learning the players, but they’ve worked hard to catch up on what to do for this program. I think we’re on the same page. Even though we’ll lose seniors next year, I have confidence in our JV team. We’ve got a ton of good sophomores and a couple juniors playing JV right now who will step in, and we’ve got injured guys that will come up when healthy, so it’ll be interesting. We just have to play day by day and game by game and our focus has to be high so we can get redemption, but win it this year. I’ve talked to the players since I was hired that one of our main goals was to go deep in the state tournament this year,” Coach Swartzentruber said.
Taking control of the team isn’t just the coaches job. After the loss against Andrean on the __ , Litwicki took initiative by organizing a team meeting to get them back on track.
“We all met in the locker room at 9 and started talking. [Litwicki] said was that we have a lot of expectations with our ranking, but we just can’t worry about that and have to go out there and play our game. Other people chimed in and talked, too. Everything was positive and I felt like it really helped. We talked about not trying to worry about playing time and when you do get playing time just being aggressive at the plate and work on hitting fastballs early in the count. He talked about not being frustrated with our offense’s struggles that led to losses. He said he still had faith in the team’s hitting, which is pretty big to hear from a pitcher because we all knew they are frustrated with not getting any run support. Overall it was a talk about not panicking and going out there and playing as well as we all know we’re capable of,” Max Pattison (12) said.
Although there can only be nine players on the field at one time, it takes all 19 varsity players to help win a ballgame.
“Everyone has a role, whether it’s actually playing, doing a chant or just cheering each other on. It definitely takes everyone on the team to win a game,” Jason Lamont (12) said.