Southern trip gives Deer Lakes baseball time to build into winner

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Sunday, March 10, 2019 | 8:33 PM


Graduation hit the Deer Lakes baseball team hard the past two seasons.

A combined 19 players moved on, including nine from last year’s squad that posted an 11-9 record and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the third year in a row and eighth time in nine seasons.

But with a mix of returning and new talent, coach Josh Tysk feels the Lancers can continue a winning tradition and return to the postseason.

“We’re going to need guys to step up that might not have a lot of varsity experience,” he said. “They’ve been in the program and have worked hard. They are going to get the opportunity to jump in and play every day. It’s going to take some time to get our lineup fine-tuned. We have some quality pieces.”

The Lancers will get an opportunity to escape the unpredictable March weather in Pennsylvania and take the field for workouts and a series of games next week at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

They begin their season March 22 at 6:30 p.m. against Curwensville.

Deer Lakes also is scheduled to face Berks Catholic and Saegertown on March 23 and Friends Central on March 24.

“We try to give everyone ample playing time down there,” Tysk said. “We want to use it as kind of a spring training. Guys are going to get in and get their shot. We will be able to make lineup adjustments and try different things, especially on defense. When we come back north, we want what we worked on to be a routine.”

This is the fourth straight year the Lancers will make the trip to the South Carolina training facility. They are 7-3 in games there the past three seasons.

West Liberty (W.Va.) recruit Greg Geis, Tysk said, will be at the heart of the pitching staff and also is expected to provide leadership.

“We’re going to need Greg to really step up and be that ace for us,” Tysk said. “He’s been pitching as a varsity starter since his freshman year. We expect big things from him.”

Geis went 1-2 last year with a 2.31 ERA in six starts.

Senior shortstop Cory Newman is expected to solidify the infield.

“Cory fell into a role last year where he was starting pretty much every day,” Tysk said. “When Jake pitched, he played shortstop. He really found his home there. He’s probably going to have to also pitch a little bit this year. It’s not something he’s done the past two years at the varsity level, but he’s the type of kid who will do anything you ask him to do.”

Newman batted .288 (19 for 66) last season and added three doubles, 10 RBIs and six runs.

“There is a lot of competition for spots and playing time, and the guys love it,” Newman said. “The younger guys are working really hard and want to make a difference.”

Tysk expects junior Trey Darrah (infield, pitcher) to find an increased role in the lineup. He saw action for the Lancers in six games at the end of last season.

Others back with varsity experience include seniors Josh Probst (catcher, outfield, pitcher) and Jake Yaconis (infield, pitcher), as well as juniors Elliot Knickerbocker (outfield), Andrew Bokulich (outfield, catcher, pitcher) and Will Meyer (infield, pitcher).

Tysk said he likes what he sees from freshman Justin Brannagan (infield, outfield, pitcher).

“Justin will go through growing pains, no doubt, learning the speed of the game at the varsity level, but he’s really showing some promise and working hard to get better,” Tysk said.

Deer Lakes finished fourth in its Class 4A section last year at 8-6 behind section champion Knoch and playoff qualifiers Freeport and Greensburg Salem. Its season came to an end with a 1-0 loss to West Mifflin in the WPIAL first round.

The Lancers and Freeport dropped to 3A (Section 1) and will see new section foes in rivals Burrell and Valley as well as East Allegheny, South Allegheny and Steel Valley.

“There are five solid teams we know about, and we’re trying to learn more about South Allegheny and East Allegheny,” Tysk said. “We’re going to go out and compete hard and win as many games as possible. It’s going to be a competitive battle for those playoff spots.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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