Inexperience plagues Cavaliers

Published 9:58 pm Thursday, March 22, 2012

Practice: Coach Mark Polick hits balls to members of the Lakeland Cavaliers baseball team during a recent practice. The Cavaliers are in the midst of a “rebuilding year,” Polick said, and they face some tough competition in the Southeast District.

By Titus Mohler
Correspondent

This season, the Lakeland varsity baseball team faces the Southeastern district with a particularly young roster that shows some promise.

Mark Polick returns for his second year on the job as head coach. He described last season as one consisting of “rocky roads.” The 2011 Cavaliers finished with a record of 5-15.

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Polick’s expectations for the new season involve a focus on positive growth centered on developing the young pool of talent on the team.

“We’re kind of in a rebuilding year this year,” he said. “I got a young team. I got five sophomores, two freshmen, three seniors, and three juniors.”

Several of the sophomores came up this year from playing junior varsity.

Not everyone is new, though. The three seniors on the roster are expected to contribute talent and leadership to the young team.

Tyler Strange plays catcher, Randall Jones mans second base and also pitches, and Danny Fenton serves as a utility player, taking innings at shortstop, in center field, at second base and even at pitcher.

Among the up-and-coming players to watch is sophomore first baseman Shane McCaw. Two games in the season, McCaw was batting .833, and he hit three doubles and a single against Oscar Smith last week.

“He’s hitting the ball really well,” Polick said. “Really, really talented first baseman.”

At shortstop, Polick is playing freshman Robert Fitzwater.

“He’s going to be a star,” Polick said. “Really solid baseball player. Struggling a little bit with his hitting right now, but he’s going to come around.”

The first game of the season against Western Branch illustrated the challenges the young team faces.

“Western Branch was a tough game, a tough one to start out with,” Polick said. “We didn’t hit the ball well, we didn’t communicate well. You can see we got some work to do.”

The Bruins defeated the Cavaliers 11-2.

The next game against Oscar Smith was also disappointing.

“The Oscar Smith game — that’s a tough loss,” Polick said. “To me, that was a team we probably should have beat. (We) kind of got in the hole, we made a couple errors. We didn’t execute (well).”

The final score was 9-6.

Following the game, Polick made a point of pressuring the older players to set a good example.

“The younger kids look to them, so (they’ve) got to provide leadership to the younger kids,” he said.

In the process of developing the young players, Polick remains mindful of the fact that his team faces a special caliber of opponent.

“Like I say, we’re young and Southeast district’s not a joke to play in,” he said. “I mean, every night you’re facing somebody who’s (ranked) one through, probably, six in the area, it seems like. It’s very competitive. And the kids feel the pressure too, I mean, when they get out there, they feel it.”

The big picture comes into focus, though, when Polick explains his greatest challenge as a coach: “Getting the young men to believe in themselves, their teammates and that every time they walk between the white lines they can win.”