Deer Lakes baseball answers questions with sizzling start

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Thursday, April 22, 2021 | 7:03 PM


Deer Lakes baseball coach Josh Tysk wasn’t sure how potent the Lancers offense would be this season.

With just two returning players in junior Justin Brannagan and senior Ryan Rodgers, there were several unknowns in the lineup. But through eight games, the Lancers are leaving no doubt that they can produce both at the plate and on the mound.

After splitting their first two games of the season with Steel Valley (5-0) and Knoch (2-5), the Lancers (7-1, 5-0) have won six straight after taking down East Allegheny 10-1 on Thursday. In seven of their first eight games, the Lancers have scored six runs or more, and their bats have come alive early in games.

In the first inning against East Allegheny, the first three Deer Lakes batters reached base before Brannagan drove them in with a triple down the right-field line. The Lancers scored five runs in the inning before winning, 10-1.

It’s something they’ve been doing all season, and Tysk believes that it’s been one of the main factors in their hot start.

“We’ve just been getting the big hit when we really needed it, and we’ve really had those big innings that give our pitchers some breathing room and just help our defense play relaxed,” Tysk said. “The bats have been really good. We just need to limit the strikeouts. That’s always one of our goals every day, and so far, we are earning walks, we are taking good pitches, and we are having good at-bats.”

After seven games, the Lancers had four players hitting .300 and both Brannagan and Rodgers were hitting .500 heading into Thursday’s matchup. Brannagan has a team-high 10 RBIs and senior Josh Wachter is right behind with nine. Freshman Ryan Cochran has six.

Brannagan said for his team’s success to continue, they have to keep striking early to give their defense a sense of comfort in the field.

“We just need to keep up our pitching, and we definitely need to keep putting up runs in the first few innings of games,” Brannagan said. “If we keep that going, we’ll keep beating teams and going somewhere.”

Along with their big bats, the Lancers have been getting production from their pitching staff.

After posting a 2.41 ERA as a sophomore, Brannagan has been even better this season. In 28 innings, he has a 1.50 ERA with 36 strikeouts and has only allowed six earned runs.

He hasn’t been alone.

Junior Jacob Danka has thrown 10 innings with an ERA of 1.40 while striking out 12. The 6-foot southpaw has given up just 10 hits.

The Deer Lakes defense has also been backing them up.

“Our pitching staff has been a huge contributor, and we’re making those little extra plays defensively that are helping us out,” Tysk said.

The Lancers are undefeated this season when they allow two runs or less. Their only loss came March 30 when Knoch capitalized on four walks to earn a 5-2 victory. Since then, the Lancers haven’t allowed more than two runs in a game.

Tysk may have had a lot of questions coming into this season, but so far, he’s found answers for most.

Freshman Ryan Cochran has stepped up and started all seven games for the Lancers, and Nick Rossi has been big as well.

“I knew we had some had talent, but some guys have stepped up in some spots that I maybe didn’t expect right away,” Tysk said after the East Allegheny game. “Like today was our seventh game and it was our seventh different starting lineup. So, it’s always been a question of who are we going to start today and why. I feel like we are 12-13 guys deep at any time.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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