Lakeview Academy’s baseball team cruised through the regular season and now is beginning its assault on the Class A state playoff bracket.
Monday, as the Lions (25-1) prepared for today’s second-round series against Bremen, it was hard to decipher how this group was treating the postseason any different than the regular season — which Lakeview handled with ease, picking up 13 double-digit victories.
The Lions were relaxed, loose and having a lot of fun.
"Even though this is the playoffs, it’s almost just as important to keep things the same as the regular season," Lions coach Deuce Roark said. "These guys want to be able to come out here and have fun."
And be able to laugh at themselves, too.
Lakeview’s fun-loving bunch put their humor on display, cracking jokes at the expense of another group having their picture made for the paper. It’s hard not to have fun on a team that is currently ranked second in the state and built for a deep playoff run.
"Everything is coming together," junior starter Ralston Cash said. "We’re just keeping our eyes where they need to be."
A lot of the credit for Lakeview’s success this season is due to the work its pitching staff, which has been nothing short of remarkable. The Lions’ staff only allowed two hits in its first round sweep, with 10-0 and 19-0 victories against Fellowship Christian in the first round last Friday. With those two, Lakeview’s pitching staff now has seven shutouts this season, helping the Lions cruise through the regular season region schedule with a perfect 16-0 record.
"Our pitching staff really has been on for us all season," Roark said. "We had a preseason meeting and made it a point to have eight pitchers ready, and five have really stepped to the forefront."
The No. 1 spot in the rotation was solidified all along with junior Ralston Cash (8-0, 0.69 ERA) back in the mix this season.
Cash, a potential high-round draft selection in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, has diversified his bag of tricks this year with a curveball and changeup, to go along with a fastball in the low 90s. He’s only allowed 17 hits against 193 batters faced this season, to go along with an ERA that’s been below 1.00 all season.
"Ralston has developed more into a pitcher this season, instead of a guy that can just throw hard," Roark said.
If Cash had the option, he’d be on the mound for the first game of every series.
"I live off the pressure," Cash added. "It just motivates me to be better."
Senior left-hander Tyler Ward (7-0, 2.01 ERA) has emerged as the No. 2 guy in the rotation, and makes for a steady complement to Cash. After that, Jacob Whitenton (2-1) and Taylor Simpson (4-0), both sophomores, have logged considerable innings during the regular season, and will be used as valuable assets out of the bullpen in the playoffs.
Cash also points to the fact that Lakeview’s defense has been stellar all season. He doesn’t have to worry about having a runner on base, just focus on throwing to the batter.
"If there’s a runner on base, they’ll turn a double play, or just get us out of the inning," Cash added.
With second-round opponent Bremen, which scored 20 runs combined in a first round sweep of Walker, coming to town, Roark rests assured that his pitching staff is up for the challenge. It’s just a matter of playing with the same sense of urgency they’ve carried out to the mound all season.
"This staff is really good at being role players," Roark said. "They’ve really been a joy to coach."