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Holland’s summer season keeps Lakeland players together

The Holland Athletic Association and Paul Strange have teamed up for a number of summers to give Lakeland’s varsity and junior varsity baseball players the opportunity to keep playing through the summer. The guys on this year’s Holland Palomino division (19-and-under) team are taking full advantage.

“Holland’s sponsored us now for about five years,” Strange said. “We just do it to keep the kids playing together, so they get a lot of games in.”

“Especially this year, since our varsity team was so young, it’s been really important,” Strange said.

With about 40 games in the books this season, Holland finished second in its sectional tournament last week in Virginia Beach and qualified for the East Zone, South Region Tournament in Virginia Beach, at Lynnhaven, starting Thursday. Should Holland win the South Region, next up would be a trip to Butler, Pa. for the East Zone championship.

Lakeland’s two baseball squads, four players from Windsor High School and a couple collegiate recruits, Lakeland alums Jeremy and Jarrett Hagwood, who are playing at Virginia Wesleyan, make up the team. In a way it’s sort of two teams in one.

Holland is officially a Palomino team in the PONY system. Palomino squads can have up to three 19-year-olds.

Holland has enough 14-16 year-olds though that Strange has his team play 16-and-under teams as well and his younger players get first priority in the lineup in those contests.

It’s all about playing games and getting as much “real speed” experience as possible.

“We’ve practiced twice the whole season, once when we got together at the start of the season and once a week or so ago when we went through a stretch of two or three games where we didn’t hit the ball at all,” Strange said.

There are about 12 other teams, in both age groups, around the region to make up Holland’s regular season. Then, instead of practices, Strange schedules as many “pick-up games” as possible.

Last week in sectionals, Holland started with a 6-3 win over Kempsville and a 9-7 win versus Cox.

Lakeland’s David Waterfield pitched a complete game against Kempsville. Holland trailed 7-5 going to the last inning, the seventh, against Cox.

The turning point in the comeback came after Cox pitched around the Hagwood brothers, the middle of Strange’s order.

“The younger kids came up then and they got four hits in a row,” Strange said. Jeremy Hagwood pitched the last inning to save Holland’s lead.

Jeremy pitches for Virginia Wesleyan and could be the ace for Strange, but for the sake of developing the younger pitchers and since “college ball is more important than rec ball,” said Strange, Jeremy is used only in very selective spots.

Kempsville came back and defeated Holland in back-to-back games to win the tournament.

Regardless of how this next level of tournament play goes, or if Holland goes on to Pennsylvania and the Palomino World Series in San Jose, Ca., the main purpose of the season’s already been achieved.

“Playing teams from Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, the Peninsula, they are all good teams and good competition,” Strange said.

“When you take the high school season plus this, now we’re looking at 70 or more games these guys get to play,” Strange said.

Holland faces a squad from Greensboro, N.C. to open the regional tournament Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The four-team tourney goes until Saturday.