Playing the Flyers? Keep a good eye on the basepaths

J. Patrick Eaken

If Ty Cobb played for the Lake baseball team, he would feel right at home.

The Detroit Tiger and Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee played over 100 years ago, but his forte was hitting and stealing bases during a dead ball era when those two attributes were important to winning. 

Those attributes are still important, even though the ball may be a little livelier and metal bats have replaced wood bats at the amateur level.

In 60 base stealing attempts, Lake base runners have been caught only four times. It is one element that has propelled the Flyers into first place in the Northern Buckeye Conference at 12-5 overall and 5-1 in the league after a 5-0 shutout win over Elmwood Wednesday. They are trying to “defend” their 2019 title, when they finished 27-1 overall and a perfect 14-0 in the NBC, and they are doing it with a handful of seniors and 10 juniors.

“Our pitchers are throwing strikes, so our pitching has been pretty good, and we have been playing good defense and we are fast,” Lake coach Greg Wilker said. “We are 56 for 60 stealing bases, so we run really well. We have a lot of team speed, so that really helps.

“I have even more base stealers, but the fastest kid is (senior) Tyler Saffran, who was our quarterback this year in football. He is 11 for 12 even though he missed part of the season, but he leads the team,” Wilker said. “Cam Hoffman has eight and Richie Hayward has eight. We’re going to run about every opportunity we get. We’re going to see some good catchers, but we’re fast.”

Senior Jaxon Delventhal had 23 stolen bases two years ago, and he and classmate Toran Schroyer have six stolen bases apiece this year, adding to the dismay of opponents’ batteries.

Hoffman is batting .426 (20 for 47) with five doubles, one triple, four home runs, and 21 RBI, so there is power on this team, too. He has an on-base percentage of .500 and slugging percentage of .830. 

“We’re not going to hit many home runs, but we’ve hit more this year than we have in past years,” Wilker said. “That just depends on which way the wind is blowing at our place. The wind can affect the game a little bit out there.”

Saffran is batting .387 (12 for 31) with five doubles, two triples, and eight RBIs, Conner Moore is hitting .375 (15 for 40) with four doubles, two home runs and 16 RBIs, and Hayward is batting .310 (13 for 42) with one double and four RBIs.

The Flyers’ pitching is no slouch either as five hurlers have ERAs under 2.00 and three of those are under 1.00.

One of them, Schroyer, has not given up a run, but has only pitched two-thirds of an inning. Delventhal has pitched 17.1 innings with an ERA of 0.40, 22 strikeouts, five walks and he has allowed 10 hits and one earned run and has three wins against no losses. That was before Delventhal pitched a complete game shutout over Elmwood Wednesday, striking out 15.

Hayward, in 13.1 innings, is 2-0 with four strikeouts, four walks and allowed seven hits and one run with an ERA of 0.53. Cody Alvarez is 2-0 with nine strikeouts, four walks, 13 hits, three runs and a 1.58 ERA. However, Hoffman has pitched the most, 29 innings, and is 2-1 with 35 strikeouts, six walks, 22 hits, eight runs and a 1.93 ERA. 


Everyone chasing everyone

However, being in first place now and winning the league are two different things. For instance, Lake got a 9-0 win over Eastwood, which was ranked 20th in the first Division III state poll. In the NBC, it already looks like anything can happen on any given night.

“Like I tell the kids, ‘Any league win is a good win this year.’ It is that balanced — it really is,” Wilker said. “We started out against Genoa and beat them 5-1 in the first league game, and that was a good win, and then we beat Otsego by the same score, 5-1 so that built the kids’ confidence a little bit when they got those two league wins. Genoa is a good team and Otsego was picked to win the league, so when we beat them 5-1 that really helped our confidence.

“But then, like I told them, ‘Any team can reach up and get you’ and Woodmore is a very good team and they beat us 3-2 at our place on that following Monday. (Coach) Jake (Huss) does a nice job there, and that’s the big thing is that every team is just so well coached in our league. It makes it fun.

“Eastwood is really good because they started out 12-0 and they lost to Otsego and then they lost to us. That was one of our better games. We played really well there. That was one of those games where everything went right for us — one of our kids hit a three-run homer in the first and the momentum just sort of built after that. They got shutout twice in a row — Otsego beat them on a Monday, 3-0, and then we beat them on Wednesday, 9-0,” Wilker continued.

“It is an outstanding baseball league. Fostoria is real young this year and we have not played them yet, but I think there are seven schools that could win the league this year. I think it is one of those years where, talking to some of the other coaches like Phil (O’Shea) at Rossford, I was saying, ‘You know, I think it’s one of those years where 10-4 might get you a share of the title this year’ because it is just that balanced where teams are going to knock each other off throughout the season.”

How do you prepare for an NBC that can cause fits? You play a tough non-conference schedule.

“We play a tough non-league schedule. We lost to Perrysburg (12-2) — that was a really bad game where they run-ruled us,” Wilker said. “We were throwing some other pitchers because my top pitcher wasn’t available that day. He was injured. (Perrysburg) Coach (Dave) Hall and I know that — we try to play each other early in the season so that way I can throw my best against his best because they are just going to have a lot more pitching depth than we are year-in and year-out.”

“We lost to Maumee 2-1 in 11 innings. We try to play good competition. We played Wauseon, a real good program, and we beat them (5-3), and Clyde (5-3 Lake win), who is Division II, so we’re just trying to face good pitching going into the league all the time.”



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