HARTVILLE The Lake Center Christian Tigers' baseball team believes feel it got away with one - or two - with its annual spring break trip to South Carolina.
With a week in Myrtle Beach, LCC played several games, including a scrimmage, during a week when playing even one inning in Northeast Ohio would have been difficult.
"Overall, we’re pretty pleased with how the kids performed," head coach Shane Byler said. "We won our scrimmage and we won our first game against Worthington Christian, which was one of our better wins in my six years here, and then coming back and knowing what the weather was that week, it was great to get a few games in."
Knowing that most of their Ohio rivals hadn’t been so fortunate as to take a trip to a warmer climate and play during their spring break, LCC came home feeling a step ahead of the competition. Although their final game in Myrtle Beach was a 13-0 loss to fellow Ohio team Chardon - albeit a team from a much larger Ohio school - the Tigers felt energized by their time in the sun.
They used that energy to win their first game back, an eight-run win over former Portage Trail Conference member Waterloo, to start the Ohio-based portion of their schedule on a positive note. The win showcased one of the lessons the Tigers gleaned from their trip, namely that they are not going to consistently win games if they expect to blast home runs and power their way past opponents.
"We found if we want to be successful, we have to hit top to bottom in the lineup and get guys on base," Byler said. "We have make things happen with steals, bunts and putting constant pressure on the defense. If we can get guys on base, we feel like we’re going to make things happen."
The South Carolina trip was educational in the offensive sense, but it was also encouraging for the team’s pitching staff. New number one starter Will Caudle led off the trip by throwing six innings and allowing no earned runs while striking out seven betters in the win over Worthington Christian.
Teammate Zach Page nearly replicated Caudle’s effort in his first start of the year, pitching a complete game with no earned runs allowed and seven strikeouts, suggesting that the Tigers have found two solid arms to fill the hole created by the graduation of last year’s ace, current Malone starter James Kontur.
The trip was also the start of an interesting era for Byler, who now finds himself coaching his younger brother, LCC freshman Coby Byler. Shane Byler noted that often, parents will coach their children on a middle or high school team, but a sibling coaching another sibling is rare.
Age difference - many brothers and sisters are only a few years apart, so the odds of the older one becoming a head coach while their sibling is still in high school is rare - typically prevents that, but the Bylers will have a chance to figure out the dynamics of that relationship this season and the trip was one of the first steps.
Shane Byler noted that because his younger brother has been around teams he has coached and because he was able to coach Coby’s under-14 travel baseball team last summer, the brothers already have a good idea of how to make things work and get along on the diamond.
"So far it’s been great … Coby has always been part of what we’ve done and he’s seen me coach for years, so he knows the high expectations I have," Shane Byler said.
On the trip, Coby Byler got his first varsity hit, drove in a run and helped the bottom of the lineup be productive. Of course, not everything on the trip was about the diamond. During their free time, coaches, players and a few alumni who made the trip south took time out for some fun together in the form of a putt-putt golf tournament.
The event pitted the seniors against three other groups: coaches, alumni and underclassmen. According to Shane Byler, the seniors won, a fitting result on a trip where the veteran manager credited the senior class with setting a good tone for the group. It was the fourth such trip for the senior class and with wins on both the diamond and golf course, they and their teammates returned home feeling like it had been a worthwhile venture.
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