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ONE SPECIAL TEAM
By SCOTT CHANCEY
, Sports Editor
Monday, April 28, 2014 1:17 AM
Lander baseball players celebrate Saturday night at Dolny Stadium after clinching the regular-season Peach Belt Conference championship. (BOB STONER | LANDER UNIVERSITY)
Lander University shortstop Erik Lunde looked at his teammates in the dugout, rolled his eyes as if to say, “Not again.”
There came playful taunts not long after the Bearcats’ baseball team clinched its first regular-season Peach Belt Conference championship.
It just so happened Lunde was the victim that time after hitting two home runs, a double and finishing with four RBIs in Saturday’s second contest against Armstrong Atlantic that clinched the title.
Such is the price you pay as a baseball player on any team when you deliver the pivotal hits.
Or, pivotal throws.
Or, pivotal outings on the mound when the game matters most.
Many other Lander teammates have been in Lunde’s position before in this season. Just on Saturday, it was his time -- again.
If you are on a team that gets along with each other, expect a few jokes here and there.
Players who joke about each other care about each other.
And, in turn, they play for each other.
Time and time again, coach Kermit Smith’s Bearcats have proved they have the intangibles to win this year’s Peach Belt Conference tournament, beginning Saturday at USC Aiken.
They proved they have what it takes to win the Southeast Regional.
Also, they proved to have what it takes to win this year’s NCAA Division II national championship.
As Index-Journal sports writer Andrew Macke revealed earlier this month, a Lander baseball player is more than happy to get beaned and advance to first because he trusts another teammate to drive him in for the score.
Trust builds team chemistry. And in turn, chemistry builds a bond and composure when the the contest is on the line. You need look no further than Saturday’s first win against the Pirates when Lander fell behind 7-6 in the top of the 10th. Still with a belief in each other, the Bearcats responded in the bottom half to pull out the win.
And, Index-Journal sports writer Jordan Anders told the story of how Lander single-season home run leader, Connor Lewis, hit one of his homers just hours after learning the death of his grandfather.
It takes a unique kind of player to do that.
But let’s not go too over the top about chemistry and team bonds. Talent is also important. And, Lander has it both at the plate and on the mound. Right-fielder Patrick Grady, an All-American last season, is batting .430 with eight homers, 25 doubles and 42 RBIs. Thomas Berry, who had the walk-off hit in Saturday’s first-game win against Armstrong, also holds the single-season school record for walks with 48. Other records include Lewis holding the single-season base- and home-run record, and Grady the mark for doubles and runs scored.
Pitcher Ryan Jones is 9-0; Dylan Wolchik is 9-1 and Taylor Alvarez is 8-2. And, Brandon White has 10 saves.
Oh, and as for the 43 wins Lander has right now?
That’s a record, too.
It was a special night Saturday for Lander to celebrate in the Dolny Stadium which opened just two seasons ago.
But if you missed their celebratory dogpile on the mound, you might not need to fret.
I have a feeling that was not their final one.
Chancey is sports editor at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 223-1813; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @IJSCOTTCHANCEY. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.
Thank you for such a nice article. I was disappointed with yesterday's coverage and no picture to help the community enjoy the victory. However, I do appreciate today's coverage.
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4/28/2014 10:19:00 AM
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