Sunday, March 21, 2021 | 16:07
The last time Deer Lake’s baseball team took the diamond, Justin Brannagan was a freshman and Ryan Rodgers was a freshman.
Now, a year after the coronavirus pandemic canceled this spring’s sports season, Brannagan and Rodgers are the only two return winners for the Lancers. Although his team lacks university experience, Deer Lakes coach Josh Tysk, who is entering his fifth season at the helm, says the Lancers have plenty of baseball experience to go around.
“As far as experience goes, we do not have much because we lost a lot,” said German. “When you have the kids who were going to play a lot as juniors or the guys who made the college team before we dropped out, and who had played a good deal as sophomores, it’s hard.”
“We are quite young or inexperienced at the university level, but we have many years of baseball experience since these guys have been younger.”
As a rookie, Brannagan was one of the best producers in an 11-9 Lancers squad in 2019. He averaged .317 and drove in 20 RBIs on 20 hits. He also recorded 20 laps, developed a 2.41 ERA and allowed only seven earned races.
“He’s definitely a guy we have to trust a lot, and he has to take a much bigger role as far as anyone on the mound,” said German. “But I think he’s ready for it, and he’s probably going to hit the heart of our order. He did it two years ago as a beginner, and he basically hit two holes all year and started every game. We need to trust his experience. ”
Rodgers was another major contributor to the Lancers as a freshman. With the speed he showed during the football season and the Lancers needing an extra outfielder, Rodgers made a transition from midfield to right field two years ago and started almost every game for the Lancers while hitting the bottom of the order.
This season, German said he will move back to midfield and give the Lancers a first-class presence.
“This year I think we are the opposite: We have graduated so many infielders over the last two years that he will now be able to move in again because we have some boys who will be able to step up and play outfield,” said Tysk.
Outside of Rodgers, the Lancers have only three seniors, but all three will play.
Josh Walker wants to see some quality time in the infield, and he can team up with AJ Pagone.
With the missing season, some of the Lancers lost a year to get used to hitting the university level. But German said he has tried to give his players as many opportunities as possible to face live pitching in the downtime.
“You’re going to see better varsity pitchers this year, so I think that’s an area that we’re concerned about, and we may have to continue to adapt to a higher quality pitching staff at the opposite end,” said German. “I think it’s the biggest downfall to not being competitive, but this offseason our boxes have countless live bats against hitters and vice versa. So we have had several opportunities to see a lot of live competition on bats, even if it is in practice. ”
Brannagan and Southpaw Jacob Danka will be the Lancers’ one-two strokes on the mound to start the season this year, and Pagone will be a quality arm out of the bullpen. He could also receive a start or two.
But the versatility of Lancer’s pitching staff is something the Germans believe will be one of their strengths.
“We do not have a guy who throws 90 miles an hour, but we do have some kids who know what they do best, and they are able to work the strike zone against good hitters because they understand what they are capable of,” said German. .
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