LOWER MORELAND >> It was a fork in the road moment for Lower Moreland baseball.
Last Friday, the Lions defeated BAL rival Holy Ghost Prep for the first time since 2012 and just the third time in their last 17 meetings with the Firebirds. It was a signature victory for Lower Moreland but if the Lions didn’t want it to be the high-water mark of their season.
They stayed true to what had gotten them to that point and kept the good vibes rolling Tuesday with a 13-2 win over visiting in Bristol in five innings.
“We got the young guys immersed, did some team bonding and now we’re just a group of goofballs playing baseball,” Lower Moreland senior catcher Brock Landes said. “We’re having a lot of fun doing it. I felt it coming and this is our year, I think.”
The win upped Lower Moreland’s record to 9-1 on the season, their only setback a 1-0 loss to usual BAL power Devon Prep. It’s a team without a true standout player but a group that plays for each other and has shown a repeated knack for picking each other up when the time calls for it.
After the Holy Ghost Prep win, Landes said the team had a conference on Sunday basically re-iterating that if they didn’t take care of business this week, that win wouldn’t mean much. Monday, Lower Moreland topped MaST Charter 13-3, then never let up against Bristol en route to an early-inning ending.
“We’re keeping it one game at a time and just playing who’s in front of us,” LM coach Tony Martino said. “We’ve gotten a lot of pitchers to throw strikes, our defense has been fielding a lot of balls well and we’re getting timely hitting. You get those three things and it’s come together in a lot of games for us.”
Bristol came out swinging on Tuesday, lacing three straight one out singles off LM starter John Davies to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Davies struck out the next two batters, leaving two on and quelling any further momentum for the Warriors.
Lower Moreland isn’t as deep in pitching as it is in some other areas but for the most part, the Lions hurlers have been able to pitch efficiently. They’ve also put a lot of trust in their defense and have been rewarded for the most part so far.
There have been mistakes here and there, but that’s the nature of high school baseball. What’s different this year is those errors haven’t compounded into further trouble.
“This year, everybody is getting along really well and we’re putting the ball in gaps and not making errors we’re used to making,” Lower Moreland senior catcher Brock Landes said. “We’re pitching well, we’re hitting the zones and corners. I give it up to the mastermind, Coach ‘Tino is putting everyone where they need to be and in a good place to win.”
One thing the Lions have done exceptionally well this year is hit. They mashed 11 hits in just four innings on Tuesday, drew five walks and put plenty of other balls in play. Third baseman Connor Duddy tied the game in the bottom of the first with the first of his two sac flys on the afternoon.
Lower Moreland took the lead for good with a three-run second inning highlighted by an RBI single from Landes and a sac fly by Jordan Leiber. The Lions then broke the game open with a five-spot in the third inning with No. 9 hitter Tim Kennedy’s two-run single and Leiber’s two-run triple the big hits.
A bevy of Bristol errors added up to four more LM runs in the fourth inning before Davies sealed the deal in the fifth.
“It’s all confidence,” Martino said. “We’re trying to keep them confident in there, if they have a couple at-bats where they’re slumping, you just remind them of all the other good at-bats they’ve had. The more confidence you have, the more you’re able to carry it over.”
Kennedy had three hits out of the No. 9 spot against Bristol while Landes had two hits batting eighth. Max Cousins drew two walks with a sac fly while Bob Cavanaugh reached three times.
Landes said the Lions haven’t had this type of team unity the past few years even though they made the district tournament last year. He’s seen a difference in demeanor in the field and at the plate, as well as from the guys who aren’t in the starting lineup on a given day.
“It’s selflessness, if there’s an outfielder that’s not playing, he’s encouraging the guy starting for him,” Landes said. “You understand if you’re not starting or you don’t get on base and get picked up by a teammate, you have somebody to lean on.”
It’s all about baseball and winning this year. Guys aren’t bringing the rest of the team down after an error or a strikeout, instead it’s a few positive words for the next man over or the next one coming to the plate.
“We have a next-man up mentality,” Landes said. “We want everybody on base, we want to put guys in position to hit the ball. We’re aggressive this year, we’re jumping at it from the start.”