Second-year North Tahoe baseball coach Matt Drury recently received an enlightening phone call regarding his Lakers players.
“I got a call from the town, and they said, ‘Did you know your players are out shoveling (snow from) the field?’ I said, ‘No, but I’m happy they are.’ It just shows that my guys are excited about baseball and excited about the year they had last year, and they want to grow on it,” Drury said.
Coming off a successful season in which North Tahoe played into the second round of the Northern Division III (then 2A) regional playoffs, posting a final record of 19-9, the Lakers are eager to prove they are legitimate contenders among the state’s elite programs.
“I think we’re going to be very tough to beat,” Drury said. “I think we’ll be able to compete in the Division III for one of those spots in state. That’s what we’re hoping for. Our goal as a team is to get to the state playoffs and past regionals, where we made it last year.”
In 2012, following a string of rough seasons, North Tahoe fielded a solid team complete with several capable starting pitchers and a lineup full of contact hitters.
While four seniors from that team graduated, including starting pitcher and catcher Brendon Arnold, shortstop Connor Altick and first baseman Conner Lewis, the Lakers return a number of their top players. They also gained several players who are new to the program but are coming around fast, Drury said.
The team is not yet complete, however, as a couple of key players had skiing obligations and thus missed the first handful of games. Nevertheless, the Lakers are off to a 4-3 start without junior pitcher and infielder Wildon DesLauriers and junior pitcher and outfielder Shane Christian, both of whom are expected to join the team after this weekend, Drury said.
“We’re still missing a couple guys for various ski competitions and whatnot, and they’re both mainstays in the lineup and two of our top pitchers,” the coach said. “But we should be good once we get everybody together and are at full force.”
Senior pitcher and catcher Colin Spencer leads the way as team captain and No. 1 starter on the mound. The big right-hander has overpowering stuff, evidenced by his 17 strikeouts in a nonleague win against Portola on Monday.
“Colin is throwing hard,” Drury said, adding that Spencer is also working on developing a changeup. “He is our senior leader. He’s been doing great taking on the leadership role. He works hard and sets a great example for the other guys.”
Drury said the Lakers’ other two seniors, catcher Baird Bishop and outfielder Lucas Likes, also have made a point of setting a positive example for the younger players.
“Lucas and Baird are working hard too and setting a good example. Baird has come out of the gate swinging the bat,” said Drury, estimating that Bishop is already in double-figures in RBIs. “He’s hitting the ball really well.”
Other top returners include junior second baseman Alex Tyler and sophomore outfielder Mitchell Myers. Sophomore Miles Johanson has earned a starting spot at first base — and also is swinging a hot bat, Drury said — while freshman Drew Austin and junior Jeremy Pert, and newcomers Alex Bourriague, Lucas Early and Tyler Olk have held their own.
“I’ve got some guys who are new to the program and still picking up the game and working on the intricacies. But they are coming along nicely, and when they do, I think they are going to be valuable assets for us,” Drury said.
Tyler leads off the batting order. He’s followed by DesLauriers (after this weekend), then Spencer in the third slot and Bishop in the cleanup hole. Myers hits fifth, followed by Christian, Johanson, Likes and Bourriage, who’s been manning third base. Drury said Tyler, Christian and DesLauriers are interchangeable in the order, depending on who’s swinging it the best.
Even without their full team to start the season, the Lakers entered the year with an air of confidence, Drury said.
“Yeah, we’re definitely a much more confident program than last year. We go into games expecting to win now,” the coach said. “The guys expect a lot out of themselves. When I ask them about their goals, they don’t just want to win some games; they want to take that next step and go to state. I think we have the team to do it. We just need to keep working hard and pick up the slack from the guys we lost from last year.
“I definitely think that once we’re at full force, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”