Deer Lakes baseball wants to carry bigger bats into season

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Sunday, March 8, 2020 | 5:10 PM


It all starts at the plate.

At least that is where fourth-year Deer Lakes baseball coach Josh Tysk believes his team must excel to have a memorable season.

“That’s not a secret, it has been our biggest weakness for the last three seasons,” Tysk said of his program’s hitting performances. “I think if we can improve little by little throughout the year at the plate one through nine (in the batting order), we are going to be a much better team.”

The Lancers lost their top three hitters — Cory Newman, Greg Geis and Josh Probst — to graduation after each had 22 hits last season, but they return run-producer Justin Brannagan.

Brannagan finished with 20 hits, 20 RBIs and 13 runs in 63 at-bats as a freshman. He will not be able to do it alone, however, and senior leaders Andrew Bokulich and Will Meyer are expected to help.

Bokulich, a Pitt-Bradford commit, is transitioning from outfield to catcher for the upcoming season.

Meyers finished last season with 10 hits and eight RBIs, and Bokulich had seven hits and four RBIs. Deer Lakes posted a .281 average as a team.

“I think one of Andrew’s best positions has also been behind the dish,” Tysk said. “He has done it on his summer league team for years. The only reason he played outfield last year was because we had a phenomenal catcher in Josh Probst last year.

“I have no problem with Andrew being back there, especially with his arm. With his arm strength, it’s going to be tough to run on him.”

The Lancers are in need of pitchers to replace the production of Geis, who was their go-to starter. He went 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA in 12 appearances last season.

Brannagan and Meyer pitched key games last season and the same will be expected from them again.

Brannagan went 2-2 with two saves and a 2.41 ERA in 10 appearances, and Meyer pitched in seven games, going 3-2 with 2.46 ERA.

“Losing (Geis) from last year definitely puts a big hole in the middle of the rotation, but Will started seven games for us last year and did extremely well,” Tysk said. “The first time through the section schedule, he beat Freeport and Steel Valley. I think he is throwing the ball well right now.”

Tysk said Brannagan was used more as a closer last season but will now be expected to take on more responsibility. Left-hander Jacob Danka, Trey Darrah and Ryan Robinson will likely see innings as relievers.

The team qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in Tysk’s first three seasons, including a WPIAL semifinal appearance in 2016-17, but have made first-round exits with 11-9 records the past two seasons.

With that said, Tysk does not see his program as one going through a rebuilding process, but rather one that lacked enough experience in the past.

“Last year, we were a younger team with a small senior class, but we have nine seniors this year,” he said. “We also have a great mix of young guys.

“The younger talent is going to have to put on their big-boy pants and really shine because I think they are going to get some opportunities to make themselves known.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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