North Tahoe baseball | Improved Lakers on pace for successful season |

North Tahoe baseball | Improved Lakers on pace for successful season

Sylas Wright / Sun File PhotoNorth Tahoe senior Connor Altick, shown sliding safely into home in a game played at Aces Ballpark last season, returns as the Lakers' leadoff hitter and shortstop. The Lakers are off to a 6-0 start.

Six games into the 2012 season, the first five hitters in the Lakers’ lineup have combined for a .544 average, their top four hurlers have posted a collective ERA of 1.87 and the team has outscored its opposition 53-23.

It’s no wonder the North Tahoe baseball team is off to a smoking 6-0 start.

and#8220;I’m impressed so far,and#8221; said first-year North Tahoe coach Matt Drury, a 27-year-old former catcher for the University of Rhode Island. and#8220;The guys are working hard. I have four seniors who are setting a good example, doing the right things the right way, and they’re trying to build on the direction they started heading last year.and#8221;

So far so good, as the Lakers need only two more wins to match last year’s total. That team and#8212;-a youthful squad across the board, with eight underclassmen and only one senior and#8212; finished 8-20-1 overall but showed signs of promise.

Now one year older, and considerably more polished, the 12 returning Lakers are hungry to contend for a top seed in the 2A postseason, Drury said.

and#8220;The boys want to go back to the playoffs and make some noise, and they expect to be a pretty high seed,and#8221; the coach said. and#8220;We’re a talented team, so there’s no reason why we can’t be one of the higher seeds in the class 2A and challenge every team we play. The boys expect a lot from themselves. We’ll see how it goes.and#8221;

Drury said he and his team realize that the toughest competition lie ahead. The Lakers defeated league rival Incline, Coleville, a non varsity team and Smith Valley in the season-opening Yerington Tournament. They then edged Portola by a run before thumping 4A Hug 14-6 to earn their 6-0 mark.

The first true test comes Wednesday, Drury said, when North Tahoe squares off in a doubleheader against longtime rival Truckee to open Mount Rose League play. Truckee, roughly twice the size of North Tahoe, has been a perennial 3A playoff contender the past several seasons.

and#8220;We’re definitely a confident team, but we’ve still got a long way to go,and#8221; Drury said. and#8220;We’re going to step up in competition here. We play Truckee on Wednesday, and they are a good team; they’ve played a lot of good competition. So it will be a good barometer to show us where we are.and#8221;

Everyone has been hitting the ball in the early going. Senior Brendon Arnold and junior Colin Spencer, in particular, have feasted on opposing pitching. Arnold has nine hits and 11 RBIs in 12 at-bats (.750), while Spencer has nine his in 15 at-bats (.600), with two doubles, two triples and eight RBIs. Arnold and Spencer, both big, hard-throwing right-handers, also double as the Lakers’ top two arms on their pitching staff.

Sophomore second baseman Alex Tyler, hitting a cool .538 in 13 at-bats, leads off the North Tahoe order. He’s typically followed by sophomore third baseman/pitcher Wildon DesLauriers (.500) or sophomore outfielder/pitcher Shane Christian (.167). Spencer hits third, senior shortstop Connor Altick (.333) returns as the cleanup man, Arnold hits fifth and senior first baseman Conner Lewis (.417) is sixth.

and#8220;We’re still trying to get it situated perfectly. Hopefully now all my guys are done skiing and all should be academically eligible, so we should be able to settle in in the next week or two,and#8221; Drury said.

As opposed to last year, when Arnold caught when Spencer pitched, and vice versa, Drury said he’d like to limit both players’ time behind the plate to save wear and tear over the course of the season. Instead, junior Baird Bishop will primarily handle the catching duties, Drury said.

The coach knows he’ll need fresh arms to carry the Lakers through Mount Rose League play, as the schedule, which includes a minimum of three games a week (more when make-up games apply), puts every team’s pitching staff to the test. That’s why he’s limited Spencer to relief appearances in the nonleague games so far. Nevertheless, Spencer has thrown a team-high 9 1/3 innings, and he’s done it in flawless fashion. The right-hander has yet to allow a run while recording 18 strikeouts versus only two walks. He’s allowed three hits.

and#8220;I’ve been picking my spots with him early; I don’t want to wear him out,and#8221; Drury said. and#8220;He’s been throwing the ball really well. He knows what he’s doing, he works extremely hard, and his stats are not a joke right now.and#8221;

Aside from Spencer with his nonexistent ERA, Arnold (2.33), DesLauriers (2.80) and Christian (2.33), plus freshman Mitchell Myers and senior Mychal Paschall, make up the rest of the Lakers’ staff.

Christian starts in center field when not pitching, while Lucas Likes (.100) and Paschall (.091) share time in left field, and Myers (.600), Bishop and Miles Johansen (.600) play right. Garrett McDermott, Omar Vargas and Ben Chandler round out the Lakers’ roster.

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